Mumbai: 'Nod to axe 84 trees in Aarey not 117,' HC questions BMC on public notice

Mumbai: 'Nod to axe 84 trees in Aarey not 117,' HC questions BMC on public notice

The litigant averred that the civic body's move is in violation of the apex court's order.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Monday, February 06, 2023, 09:55 PM IST
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The Bombay High Court on Monday sought clarification from the BMC on how it issued a public notice calling for objections and suggestions for felling of 117 trees at the Aarey Colony in suburban Goregaon for a Metro car shed project when the Supreme Court, in 2022, permitted felling of only 84 trees.

Petitioner says civic body's move is in violation of the apex court's order

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne C asked for clarification while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activist Zoru Bhathena challenging the BMC notice. The litigant averred that the civic body's move is in violation of the apex court's order.

An application was filed by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) seeking permission to remove 84 trees for the car shed project as per the relief granted by the Supreme Court. Following this, the BMC issued a notice on January 12. BMC counsel Aspi Chenoy said that the 117 trees include 84 trees mentioned by the SC. “The remaining are mostly shrubs and some wild trees that have grown after 2019 (when the MMRCL filed its first application seeking to fell 84 trees),” said Chenoy.

Shrubs or trees? HC asks

However, Advocate Zaman Ali, appearing for Bathena, said these trees were assigned ID numbers and hence cannot be termed as shrubs or wild trees. The judges noted that the BMC notice mentioned 177 trees. “Where do we get that these are shrubs? Also the SC order is of November 2022. This order deals with only 84 trees. At that time why was it not brought to the notice of the apex court that there are more than 84 trees that need to be removed? The question would be whether these are shrubs or trees,” remarked justice Gangapurwala.

Pending hearing, Ali sought that the civic body and MMRCL be restrained from taking any action at the site. Chenoy assured the court that they would not take any action till the matter is heard. The court directed the BMC to file an affidavit in response to the petition by February 16.

Unending controversy on tree felling at Aarey

The Metro car shed project at Aarey Colony has been embroiled in controversy since 2014. The environmentalists have held protests against indiscriminate felling of trees in the area which they say are the last vestiges of the city's green cover.

In 2019, when the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government, led by Uddhav Thackeray, came to power, it was decided to shift the car shed to suburban Kanjurmarg. However, in June 2022, the Eknath Shinde-led government reversed the MVA’s decision.

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