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Mumbai Metro 3 project: HC directs MMRC board to meet Atash Behrams’ high priests, petitioners

In a significant order, the Bombay high court on Wednesday directed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRC) board to give a hearing to five high priests and trustees of two Atash Behrams and several litigants—Parsis—who challenged the Mumbai Metro 3 project route as it runs under the two Consecrated fires at Princess Street junction in south Mumbai.

Article by Swati Deshpande | TNN

After the HC expressed its desire to stay drilling work and post the matter post vacation to June, MMRCL counsel Girish Godbole requested that his statement be recorded that the drilling work would not touch the Atash Behrams till next date on June 14.

Shyam Mehta, counsel, and advocate Zerick Dastur representing petitioners, who included structural engineer Jamshed Sukhadwalla and priest Rooyintan Peer, wanted a stay on the up tunnel running under the Atash Behram which have three fires each which cannot have their link to the earth centre broken.

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Shyam Mehta, counsel, and advocate Zerick Dastur representing petitioners, who included structural engineer Jamshed Sukhadwalla and priest Rooyintan Seer, wanted a stay on the tunnel.

The court directed the state, MMRDA and MMRCL to file their replies to the petition. Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Ajay Gadkari, comprising the bench, also expressed unhappiness over why all the high priests were not consulted by MMRCL before the project and why only two had gone for a meeting with the chief minister.

The bench asked where the high priests and trustees of the two Atash Behrams were and why were they not in court. When informed that one of the Atash Behrams has not accepted service of the petition while one had, Justice Kathawalla also said that “if the trustees of Atash Behram are not interested in coming to court for such an important matter they should resign.”

“Has the trustee explained or priest addressed the community,” the HC asked after MMRCL counsel said two priests had been explained everything. The HC questioned why the CM was holding the meeting.

Shyam Mehta, at the hearing before the vacation bench, said, “The MMRCL said they won’t go under sanctum sanctorum. We said they can’t go under the Atash Behram at all. There are three fires there.”

Mehta said that in April 2018, high priests wrote to the Prime Minister too against Mumbai Metro 3. These are not the priests who went to the CM, he clarified when asked by the court.

There are five high priests of which one is silent. Four have written that the tunnel can’t go under the temple which is a heritage site dating to 1830, said Mehta.

The MMRCL board of directors comprising Ashwini Bhide, UPS Madan, Ajoy Mehta, AA Bhat and Rahul Asthana will hold the meeting before the next hearing on a date to be fixed later.