FILE: Coastal Road project at Worli seaface in Mumbai. TOI
MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday dismissed as withdrawn a public interest litigation (PIL) Piya Mahtaney and 19 other south Mumbai residents challenging construction work underway in the coastal road project in alleged violation of Covid-19 lockdown rules. The residents form part of a group called ‘Save our coast’.
The HC bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and Justice S S Shinde wasn’t keen to proceed with the matter after project contractor Larsen & Toubro Ltd, which had intervened, submitted through its counsel Mukul Rohatgi, that a challenge to the work was already filed and pending before the Supreme Court after the apex court had last December permitted the contractor and BMC to “reclaim the land, build and secure the road.’’.
The bench asked the residents’ counsel Janak Dwarkadas whether they would “like to put in a security (deposit) as a condition precedent) to hear their claims on merits.’’ The residents sought liberty to approach the SC and raise all its issues there now, which the HC gave.
The HC thus said, “The PIL petition is not entertained. It stands dismissed.’’
The HC passed no opinion on merits of the matter.
The residents wanted to enforce the prohibitory orders passed under the Disaster Management Act, first in March and latest one in May.
On May 22, the HC had given BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) counsel Anil Sakhare time to file its reply after residents’ counsel Janak Dwarkadas said relaxations permitted by the state on May 19 permits in-situ construction, only if workers are available on site, while here the BMC was bringing in skilled workers from outside. The PIL said more than 500 workers working in close proximity
While pre-monsoon related work was permitted by the state, their plea was that tunneling, blasting and widening of road by reclamation of land was on, which cannot be classified as pre-monsoon works.
The disaster management secretary said the PIL was “misconceived’’ and deserved to be “dismissed.’’ In his reply, the secretary said, “All urgent pre-monsoon works were exempted from restrictions.’’
L&T had intervened to say it was as the project contractor “best placed to answer all the allegations and provide necessary details’’ and any orders would directly affect it.
The BMC and L&T submitted that the work being done was in compliance with all permissions and that the petitioners”failed to appreciate the extent of pre-monsoon work” required in the project.
Besides the PIL now is “infructuous’’ said the authorities with the latest orders of the state and Centre.
Hemant Kumar, Group General Counsel of L&T later, said “If they go to the SC, we are prepared fo contest their claims there too.”