Mumbai: In a big setback to the Uddhav Thackeray government, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday stayed an order passed by Mumbai suburban district collector allotting 102 acre of salt pan land in Mumbai’s Kanjurmarg area for the construction of an integrated Metro car shed.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni also restrained the authorities from carrying out any construction work at the said land.
Later in the day, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar indicated that the state government may approach the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court order. Without naming the BJP, Pawar told reporters the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s decision to shift the car depot project from Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg seemed to have “hurt a lot of people” and that is why the Centre took an “extreme step”.
“In the Constitution and law, there is a provision of making an appeal against a court decision. Hence, it will be thought about,” the deputy chief minister said.
The Centre and the Shiv Sena-led MVA government in Maharashtra are locked in a tussle over ownership of the land earmarked by the state for constructing the car depot which was earlier planned at Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon.
On Tuesday, Thackeray had said in the state Assembly, “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.”
The Union government has filed a petition in the high court challenging the October 1, 2020 order passed by the collector allotting the land for construction of the car shed, and said the land belongs to its (Centre’s) salt department.
“We cannot allow the collector’s order of October 1, 2020 to continue. The order has to go. We are admitting the petition and granting relief as sought by the petitioner (Union government) in prayer clauses ‘h’ and ‘I’,” the court said. As per prayer clause ‘h’, the Union government had sought the court to stay operation of the collectors order of October 1, transferring possession of 102 acres of land to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for construction of an integrated car shed for a Metro lines.
In the prayer clause ‘I’, the Centre had sought an order from the court restraining the MMRDA from carrying out any construction work on the said land. The HC on Monday suggested the state government to consider withdrawing the order passed by the collector.
On Wednesday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state government, told the HC that the state was ready to withdraw the order and give a fresh hearing to the Union government, but the construction work would continue at the land. Kumbhakoni told the court that presently soil testing work was on at the site.
The high court, however, noted that when it was of the prima facie view that the collector’s order transferring possession cannot continue, then how can it allow construction work to go on at the said land. The court on Wednesday granted stay and admitted the petition for final hearing in February.
The MVA government, comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, had opposed the plea and said the land that has been allotted to the MMRDA for the Metro car shed is owned by the state government. The Union government in its plea claimed the entire salt pan land in the area, including the 102 acres allotted to the MMRDA, belongs to the Centre’s salt department.
The previous Maharashtra government led by BJP had decided to construct the car shed for the Mumbai Metro line 3 at Aarey Colony in the western suburbs, despite opposition from environmentalists and activists to the vast tree-cutting for the project. The present Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government recently took a decision to shift the car shed from Aarey to Kanjurmarg.
It decided to construct an integrated car shed at Kanjurmarg for Metro lines 3, 4, 4A and 6, instead of constructing separate car sheds for these lines.
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