31 March 2023 6:01 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to alignment of Mumbai's Metro Line 4 observing that the petitioners attempted to stall and delay the project of public importance under the garb of enforcing their private rights.A division bench of acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V Marne stated that the petitioners raised baseless arguments and made MMRDA...
The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to alignment of Mumbai's Metro Line 4 observing that the petitioners attempted to stall and delay the project of public importance under the garb of enforcing their private rights.
A division bench of acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V Marne stated that the petitioners raised baseless arguments and made MMRDA justify each action regarding implementation of metro project unnecessarily –
“Not only most of the contentions raised by Petitioners are totally baseless, they have unnecessarily made MMRDA and State Government to justify each and every action relating to execution of the project right from legality of authority to MMRDA to implement the project. Rather than restricting the petitions to enforce their private rights, Petitioners have unnecessarily raised larger issues questioning authority of Respondents to implement ML-4 project. Under the garb of protecting and enforcing private rights of their properties, they have made attempts to stall and delay public project of immense importance.”
Metro Line 4 in Mumbai is 32.32 km elevated metro corridor from Wadala to Kasarvadawali with 30 stations offering connectivity between Mumbai and Thane.
The State Government approved the alignment of ML4 and appointed MMRDA as project implementation agency in October 2016.
Indo Nippon owns 7332.50 square metre land in Ghatkopar, Mumbai and claimed that 27 percent of its plot is directly affected by the ML4. It claimed that the alignment of ML4 would affect its commercial operations and filed a writ petition challenging the alignment.
Yashwant Society, a co-operative housing society of three buildings, also challenged the alignment. It claimed that the alignment of ML4 at Goradia Nagar junction was deliberately changed by MMRDA at the behest of one Mr. Goradia, who has a bungalow opposite to the society.
The petitioners contended that MMRDA has no right to implement ML4 as it has not been appointed as a General manager by the Central Government under Section 3 of the Metro Act,1978.
The court noted that section 3 provides that Central Government “may” appoint a General Manager for a metro project. Thus, the appointment of a General manager for every metro railway by the Central Government is not mandatory. The court noted that the petitioners didn't question MMRDA’s authority in 2016 when it was appointed as the executing agency, but only raised the objection in 2018 and 2019 after noticing that their properties are being affected by ML4 alignment.
The petitioners claimed that the MMRDA did not follow procedure under the Metro Act for land acquisition.
The court said that there is no restriction on the implementing agency from acquiring land under others statutes. Mere inclusion of ML4 in Schedule to the Metro Act, 1978 would not mean that provisions of Chapter III (land acquisition) of the Act are invoked, the court said.
The court held that for the purpose of acquisition of lands, a metro railway administration can choose between Metro Act or any other Act enabling acquisition.
The petitioners also claimed that the alignment of ML4 does not match with the alignment shown in the Development Plan – 2034 of the BMC. Since the Development Plan has not been amended on each occasion of change in ML4, such change in alignment and consequential reservation of land would violate section 37 of MRTP Act, they contended.
The court said that Regulation 55 of the DCPR 2034 provides for automatic amendment of Development Plan upon any modification of metro line alignment by the appropriate authority and sanctioned by the government. Thus, amending the Development Plan every time any modification in ML4 alignment is affected and sanctioned by the state government is not necessary. The alignment of ML4 stands included and the petitioners land stands reserved in the Development Plan 2034, the court held. Hence, the competent authority can acquire it under Section 126 of the MRTP Act, the court added.
The petitioners claimed that the ML4’s alignment is not finalized till date and is frequently change as per whims and fancies of MMRDA.
The court rejected this contention observing that the ML4 has not only been finalized but also stands included in the Development Plan 2034. There is no question of it being changed as per whims and fancies of MMRDA as it cannot be changed unless modification is sanctioned by the state government, the court said.
Indo Nippon also contended that MMRDA did not obtain various permissions for execution of ML4 project. The court said that these issues cannot be raised in a writ petition filed for enforcement of private rights restricted to its property. However, MMRDA has obtained various clearances including clearance from Forest Department, MCZMA, State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority, tree cutting permission, fire NOC the court noted.
The court said that Yashwant Society in its petition did not implead Mr. Goradia or the MMRDA officials against whom it has levelled allegations. Further, no material is produced by the petitioner in support of its allegations, the court said.
The court clarified that the petitioners are entitled to compensation for the acquisition of their properties as per law.
The court said that the petitions deserve imposition of costs but refrained from doing so while dismissing the petitions.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 2820 of 2018 with Writ Petition No. 1898 of 2019
Case Title – Indo Nippon Chemical Co. Ltd v. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and Ors. with connected matter
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 173
Click Here To Read/Download Order