The Bombay High Court today directed five directors of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to grant a hearing to the Parsi community in the city that has been opposing the alignment of the Mumbai Metro III project. Several members of the community and some high priests from two Parsi temples in the city have been opposing the drilling work for two tunnels for the metro III line. A vacation bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and AS Gadkari directed the five senior members from the MMRC board to grant a hearing to two Trusts that manage the concerned Parsi temples, the high priests, and some chosen representatives of the community.
Earlier this week, four high priests from the parsi community had filed a petition in the HC seeking, among other things, that the ongoing drilling work for the two tunnels near Azad maidan in south Mumbai be stopped until further orders from the court. The petitioners told HC that the MMRC was making two tunnels near Azad Maidan as part of the work on the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro III corridor.
As per the present plan of MMRC, these tunnels will pass directly under two fire temples, and Atash Behrams (sacred fires)– one at the junction of Princess Street, and another at Kalbadevi in South Mumbai, which are heritage sites. The petitioners said the proposed work, in its current form, will lead to desecration of the holy fires, threaten the structural safety of the temple buildings, both of which are heritage structures, and that the wells at the temples might run dry because of the tunneling work. The MMRC, however, told the HC that some of the high priests had met Maharashtra chief minister before the work began and that all the issues were explained to them and their consent was obtained.
However, the petitioners refuted the above saying that they had been assured that the temples wouldn’t be affected. The MMRC said none of the Trustees of the two temples had raised any objection to the work. At this, the bench said it was “shameful” that the Trustees had not approached the HC even when the community was raising its voice over an “important matter”. “It is shameful that the Trustees haven’t approached the court when the community is crying foul. This is an important matter. If the Trustees can’t take a stand then they should resign,” the bench said.
The petitioners sought that the MMRC be prevented, till the next date of hearing, from carrying out any work that affected the two temples. MMRC, however, assured the court that there existed no possibility that the current drilling work would reach the boundary of two temples by June 14, the next date of hearing.