In a setback to the Uddhav Thackeray government, the Bombay High Court today temporarily paused the construction of a metro car shed project in Mumbai at its new site.
The Chief Minister in October had said the controversial car shed for the Metrorail project would be shifted to Kanjurmag from Aarey, a vast swathe of green with around five lakh trees and home to a wide variety of animals and birds. The project was shifted over protests that raged after the decision by former government - led by BJP's Devendra Fadnavis - on felling of tress in Aarey Colony.
The High Court, however, today stayed the construction at the new site and asked the Shiv Sena-led government to wait for its orders.
The decision came amid a tussle between the state and the centre over the ownership of the new site. In a petition filed in the High Court, the centre challenged the shifting of the project, stressing the land belonged to its salt department.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni today admitted the Union Government's petition for final hearing in February, adding the collector's October 1 order - allotting the land for construction of the car shed - has to go.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar commented on the High Court's decision saying: "The order will be reviewed, and after that whatever work will be necessary... it will be started."
Hon'ble HC has granted a stay to Kanjurmarg work. We await the detailed written order to decide the future course of action.— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) December 16, 2020
This land is crucial for Metro Line 6, 4 and 14, apart from 3, as it will save almost ₹5500 crores of Govt and be a nodal point for 1 crore citizens.
In a tweet, Maharashtra Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray wrote: "Hon'ble HC has granted a stay to Kanjurmarg work. We await the detailed written order to decide the future course of action. This land is crucial for Metro Line 6, 4 and 14, apart from 3, as it will save almost Rs 5500 crores of Govt and be a nodal point for 1 crore citizens (sic)."
Yesterday, Uddhav Thackeray had commented on the issue in the state assembly, saying: "Politics shouldn't come in the way of the development of the city. More than ownership, what is important is how the project will bring benefit to people."
Last year, a huge controversy broke out after the BJP-led Maharashtra government's decision to cut down trees in Aarey, often referred as Mumbai's last "green lung". Activists fiercely opposed the decision to cut down 2,700 trees to build the shed.
In October, Uddhav Thackeray directed the withdrawal of all police cases filed against Aarey protesters - a move that was announced in December last year as well after Mr Thackeray took charge.
After his father announced the shifting of the project, Aaditya Thackeray, who campaigned to save the trees, had tweeted: "Aarey saved!".
A 102-acre government land at Kanjurmarg was handed over to the MMRDA ( Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on October 6. Commissioner RA Rajeev had informed the state cabinet that the cost of shifting the project would be around Rs 200 crore, news agency ANI reported.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)