SC to hear pleas against quashing CRZ clearances to Mumbai coastal road project after Diwali
The Supreme Court said it will hear the pleas challenging the Bombay High Court order that rejected clearance to coastal road project in Mumbai due to lack of proper scientific study.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the petition would be listed for hearing before a bench headed by Justice S A Bobde on reopening of the court after Diwali vacations.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the municipal corporation of Greater Mumbai, sought an interim order from the apex court for resuming the stalled coastal road project in Mumbai.
He said the 30 km-long coastal road project had started in 2018 and it has to meet the deadline of 2022 for completing it and the civic body and others be allowed to resume the work at their own peril.
The bench, which also comprise Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer, however, declined to stay the Bombay High Court order which had quashed the ambitious CRZ clearance granted to the the coastal road project and said the petitions will be heard later after Diwali break.
The apex court had on Monday agreed to hear on Friday the pleas after the Solicitor General told the court that the matter, which was last heard on in July this year, required an urgent hearing.
The apex court had earlier sought response from fishermen's association, activists and residents on whose petitions the High Court on July 16 quashed the CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) clearances, saying there was "serious lacuna" in the decision-making process and lack of proper scientific study.
The bench was hearing appeals filed by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Larsen and Toubro Ltd and HCC HDC JV.
The Municipal Corporation had submitted that CRZ clearance was granted on the undisputed land and the HC's order be stayed.
However, the apex court had said that it will hear the parties concerned first on the pleas.
A division bench of the high court in its ruling had said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) cannot proceed with work on the 29.2 km project, which proposes to connect Marine Drive area in south Mumbai to suburban Borivali in north Mumbai.
The high court had noted that the environmental clearance was required to be taken by the BMC under Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued by the Centre.
"We declare that the civic body cannot proceed with the works without obtaining an environmental clearance under EIA notification. Further, permission under the Wildlife (Protection) Act-1972 should also be obtained," the high court had said.
"It is obvious that a serious lacuna has occurred in the decision-making process. We hold that there is lack of proper scientific study and this has been overlooked by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), the EIA and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF)," it said.
The high court quashed and set aside the approval granted by the MCZMA on January 4, 2017, the nod given by the EAC on March 17, 2017 and the final approval granted by the MoEF on May 11, 2017.
The high court, however, had upheld the December 30, 2015 amendment to CRZ Rules which permitted reclamation of land in coastal regulated areas for constructing roads.
In April, the high court had prohibited the BMC from carrying out any further work on the project following which the corporation appealed in the Supreme Court.
In May, the apex court permitted the corporation to carry out the existing work, but prohibited it from doing any new work.
The apex court then directed the high court to take up the petitions for final hearing.
The petitioners challenged the reclamation and construction work for the project on the primary ground that it will result in damage to the coastline and destroy major marine life along the coast and livelihood of the fishermen.
They claimed that the coastal road project will irreversibly damage the coastal ecosystem and deprive the fishing community in the city of its source of livelihood.
The BMC earlier told the high court that it had all the necessary approvals for the project.
The project, which proposed to connect south Mumbai with north western suburbs of the metropolis, was one of the flagship infrastructure schemes of the BJP-led Maharashtra government.