Two members of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's Tree Authority have decided to quit days after the body's decision to clear cutting of 2,700 trees at Aarey Colony, a green area in Mumbai, sparked massive outrage.
On Thursday, the Tree Authority cleared the cutting of trees of Aarey Colony for an upcoming Metro Car shed as part of the Mumbai Metrorail project.
Soon after the decision was announced, conservationists in the city said they may approach the Bombay High Court to challenge the decision.
Now, the voting process - based on which the permission was given - has come under scanner.
At least two of the expert members - whose votes were counted as a 'yes' - have said they did not agree to the cutting of trees and remain committed to their earlier stand, which they gave in writing.
Amid the outrage over the decision, they have decided to resign from the authority, NDTV has learnt.
Two expert members - Shashirekha Sureshkumar and Chandrakant Salunkhe - have said on record that the manner in which the vote was conducted was "haphazard" and there was chaos when the vote was taken. As a result, there was a misunderstanding on their votes.
"The vote was held in a chaotic manner and her vote was counted as yes in the pandemonium," Shashirekha Sureshkumar told NDTV.
"I stick to my earlier stand and I have never yes to cutting of trees at Aarey," he added.
Officials, however, point out that due process was followed and the construction of the Metro will actually help the city reduce its carbon footprint with a more eco-friendly mode of transport that will reduce dependence on cars.
BJP Spokesperson Niranjan Shetty, whose party voted in favour of cutting of trees, told NDTV, "It is a committee of 15-25 members. It is not like the house where sometimes there can be chaos. I have been a member of the authority and I can say decisions are taken after a vote and there is no scope for any chaos."
Citizens groups continue to protest across the city to save the trees at Aarey.
Amrita Bhattacharjee from the Save Aarey Campaign told NDTV, "This is heights of manipulation and that is why citizens have gathered here and this is a spontaneous movement. People are angry and they come here to show that to the authorities."
The Shiv Sena is the only political party that has voted against the tree cutting with party leader Aditya Thackeray hitting out at those voted in favour of tree cutting and questioning how the expert members would have voted for cutting of trees.
Zoru Bathena from the Save Aarey Campaign told NDTV, "The opinion given by them is we don't have the data, we don't know what has happened and we need more time to go and inspect it. It's not as simple as putting your hand up and saying that I vote for it or vote against it. The entire meeting and decision making process is legally flawed in our view."
As the debate continues between environmental protection and development continues in a space-starved city like Mumbai, the Tree Authority's decision is likely to be challenged in court.