20 Nov 2023 7:30 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court has recently refused to pass any orders allowing the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (“RVNL”) to uproot in excess of 700 trees in Kolkata’s Maidan area for construction of a new metro railway line.In refusing to vacate an earlier order of a co-ordinate vacation bench preventing the uprooting of trees, a division bench of Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice...
The Calcutta High Court has recently refused to pass any orders allowing the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (“RVNL”) to uproot in excess of 700 trees in Kolkata’s Maidan area for construction of a new metro railway line.
In refusing to vacate an earlier order of a co-ordinate vacation bench preventing the uprooting of trees, a division bench of Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya clarified that work for the metro had not been stopped and only the felling of trees had been injuncted. It observed that although a metro railway may be in public interest, development would have to be balanced and sustainable.
“Development has to be balanced and sustainable. Maidan in Kolkata, along with some other areas, is a huge lung space for the city and must be protected. We are very conscious of the fact that the project is in public interest. RVNL should not be considering this litigation as adversarial. The approach should be different [to] look at how to implement the project while striking a balance,” it held.
The RVNL had contested the petitioner’s submissions that the RTI queries made to its nodal officers had not been addressed, and argued that the petitioner’s had failed to affix the correct address for the RVNL authorities in their RTI application.
It argued that the RVNL was not considering felling the trees at the present stage, since it was in talks with the Indian Army which has the custody of the Maidan area, and that any felling of trees would only take place with permission from the State’s forest department.
RVNL counsel sought to vacate the order of the vacation bench on the grounds that trees had not been selected for felling for construction of the metro rail, but instead would be identified for the purpose of re-plantation at a later stage.
In response to these arguments, the Bench remarked:
“The RVNL should not undertake its usual approach. It must look to implement the project while striking a balance. Less than 30% of the trees that are transplanted survive.”
While refusing to stay the order of the vacation bench, the Court, for efficient disposal of the PIL, suo moto impleaded the State’s Forest Department in the matter.
It also called for affidavits on the issue from the State government, State Heritage Commission, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Bengal Area, of the Indian Army.
Further liberty was given to the petitioner and RVNL to file supplementary affidavits as well.
Matter has been listed for further hearing on 19th December 2023.
Case: People United For Better Living In Calcutta (Public) v State of West Bengal & Ors
Case No: WPA(P)/569/2023