The Bombay High Court on Tuesday reserved judgment in the public interest litigations filed against the Tree Authority's resolution to remove 2646 trees at Aarey Colony in order to build a car shed for Mumbai Metro.
Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre have heard the case at length and examined the Tree Authority's decision taken at a meeting held on August 29, 2019, in detail. In the morning session Senior Counsel Aspi Chinoy argued on behalf of the BMC.
He submitted that the Tree Authority's decision was after "due application of mind". He referred to the transcript of the said meeting and how members who later opposed the resolution were enthusiastically supporting it initially.
"The transcript (of the meeting) is one and a half hours of energetic discussion but nothing specific is pointed out", Chinoy said.
He was replying to petitioner's advocate Senior Counsel Janak Dwarkadas's arguments yesterday wherein he stated that the Tree Authority did not apply its mind while taking the decision to axe 2646 trees. The duty of Tree Authority is to protect and preserve the trees in Mumbai, not to illegally sanction their destruction.
Appearing for MMRCL, Advocate General AA Kumbhakoni said the metro project was of paramount importance to the city and it was pivotal for easing the pressure in local trains. Every day almost 10 persons die due to overcrowding in suburban local trains, Kumbhakoni said.
Chief Justice Nandrajog quipped-
"Don't cut so many trees that our future generations do not know what a tree is. We will have to show them photographs of trees and say look, this is a tree! Or, they will see trees painted on the metro trains"
Kumbhakoni replied that the MMRCL has planted over 20,000 trees at the nearby Sanjay Gandhi National Park and will take care of the trees for next seven years.
Apart from Zoru Bathena's PIL challenging Tree Authoritiy's decision, Vanashakti Public Trust an NGO filed a petition seeking protection of the Mithi river flood plain at Aarey, where construction is prohibited by law.
AG Kumbhakoni had asked the court not to entertain the petition as it seeks declaration of Aarey as a forest. He said a bench led by Justice SC Dharmadhikari in October 2018 had decided a similar case and held that Aarey was not a forest and the requisite development permissions were obtained.
According to Kumbhakoni, argued that the Aarey Conservation Group has already filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court against the said order, and therefore, the matter cannot be decided yet.
Court reserved judgement in both cases.