The collector's order allotting 102 acres of saltpan land in Kanjurmarg for a car shed for Mumbai Metro was "perverse" and there was a serious flaw in the decision-making process, the Bombay High Court has said. On Wednesday, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni granted an interim stay to the order passed by the Mumbai Suburban District Collector on October 1, 2020.
Detailed court order was made available on Thursday. The court has also restrained the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) from carrying out any construction on the land.
The Union government has filed a petition, saying that the land belongs to its Salt Department, and challenged the allotment order. "Non-consideration of evidence that was relevant, material and germane is a serious flaw in the decision-making process vitiating the impugned order and rendering it perverse," the court said.
"We do not wish to be harsh at this stage but we cannot desist from observing that the collector's action of passing the impugned order in the manner he did does border on committing a 'fraud on power'," the court said. In 2016, the state government had moved the HC seeking permission to use 102 acres of land in Kanjurmarg to construct a Metro carshed, the high court noted.
"We are aghast to note that even while this application is pending, the collector on his own… has passed the order," it said. "It seems to be clear that there has been a change in policy with change in the ruling dispensation in the State.
We are conscious of the element of public interest involved in setting up of the Metro car shed…at the same time, we cannot remain oblivious if a person is divested of its/his right in property without the authority of law," the court said. It was aware that the stay would hold up a public project, but the "the executive must take the blame for it for being careless in its approach," the judges said.
The bench on Wednesday admitted the Union government's petition and posted it for final hearing on January 29, 2021. The earlier Maharashtra government led by the BJP had decided to construct the car shed for Metro line 3 at Aarey Colony despite opposition from activists to the cutting of trees in the wooded area which the project entailed.
The present Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government took a decision to shift the car shed from Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg.