SC stops Maharashtra govt from cutting trees for Mumbai Metro project

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) not to cut trees for the Metro project in Mumbai till the Bombay High Court decision on an activist's plea against tree felling.

A Bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices S.A. Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, returned to the high court Rohit Joshi's appeal challenging an earlier HC order. Rohit Joshi, a resident of Thane, had filed a plea challenging the Bombay High Court's November 25 order vacating the stay on the felling of trees for the Metro Line 4 (Wadala to Kasarvadali via Thane) project to be constructed by the MMRDA.

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The high court had vacated the stay passed by a different Bench in October. In November ruling, the HC had observed public projects couldn't be stalled. Joshi had moved the top court against the HC order, which upheld the permission granted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) tree authority to the MMRDA to fell trees for the Metro Line 4 project.

On December 2, the apex court stayed the felling of trees for Metro Line 4 for two weeks. Last month, it had ordered no felling of trees in Mumbai's Aarey colony forest area for construction of the Metro car shed. A Bench asked the petitioner had it challenged the decision of the tree authority, which approved the felling of trees for the project. While granting stay, the court asked the petitioner to move the HC.

The Bench was told by the counsel for the government authorities they had incurred a huge cost due to the delay in the Metro project. The HC is scheduled to hear a connected plea on December 12. The state government counsel said the authorities had planted five trees as compensatory afforestation in lieu of one tree felled. The apex court then requested the HC to examine the plea and pass an order on next date of hearing.