NEW DELHI: The construction of the proposed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial off the Mumbai coast will remain stayed for the time being as the Supreme Court on Thursday turned down the Maharashtra government's plea seeking an early hearing of an appeal challenging the project.
The apex court had earlier orally asked the Maharashtra government authorities not to proceed with the construction activities and issued notice to the state government and others on an appeal of an NGO challenging the Bombay High Court order refusing to stay the construction.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Maharashtra government, that the NGO's plea be heard urgently in view of the fact that the construction activities were halted.
"We cannot let Maharashtra jump the queue," the bench, also comprising justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, said.
Earlier, the apex court had sought the responses of the Centre and the Maharashtra government on the appeal of the NGO, Conservation Action Trust, challenging the Bombay High Court order refusing to restrain the authorities from taking steps regarding the proposed memorial project in the Arabian Sea.
The NGO had moved the high court, challenging the February 23, 2015 order of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) granting the environmental and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance to the Rs 3,600-crore project.
It had sought interim relief, saying stay should be granted on the order and the authorities should be restrained from taking further steps with regard to the project.
The petitioner had claimed in the high court that an amendment to a clause of the CRZ notification, 2011 by a February 17, 2015 notification of the MoEF&CC was "illegal" as it permitted the Centre to dispense with the requirement of public hearing in such projects.
The state government had opposed the plea in the high court and said clearances were taken for the project from different authorities.
It had argued that the final environmental and CRZ clearance of February 23, 2015 was granted by the MoEF&CC after a detailed study, after ascertaining the compliance of all requirements and after following a proper procedure.
Rejecting the petitioner's request for interim relief, the high court had noted in its order that the state had said the memorial project did not involve rehabilitation and resettlement of people and the site was located away from human habitation.
"It also cannot be overlooked that the project is considered by the state government to be of national importance," the high court had noted in its order.