The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh to stop the construction work of the memorial and installation of statues of various leaders at Noida’s Bhim Rao Ambedkar Park till October 26 but permitted the government to do other related work.
A three-judge Forest Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, and Justices S.H. Kapadia and Aftab Alam, passed the restraint order following the report of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) recommending stoppage of all construction work at the park, being undertaken at a cost of Rs. 700 crores, till environment clearance was obtained from the Centre .
(It may be recalled that on October 6, a Bench headed by Justice B.N. Agrawal had issued contempt notice to the U.P. Chief Secretary and made absolute the September 11 restraint order on construction of various memorials in Lucknow.)
After hearing counsel for the parties, the Bench said in a brief order that the authorities could continue with all other works of the project relating to the park but should refrain from any construction till October 26. It asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to respond to the CEC report and posted the matter for further hearing on October 26.
Earlier, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi opposed the stay contending that no environmental clearance was necessary as suggested by the CEC report. He said 75 per cent of the work had been completed and there were no grounds to stop the construction at this stage.
Justice Alam told the counsel: “If we don’t stop now, you will complete 85 per cent. Why do you want the court not to adjudicate the matter?”
Mr. Rohatgi said construction could go on as it pertained only to beautification of the park. If the petition was allowed, such constructions could be demolished, Justice Kapadia told Mr. Rohatgi. “To put the clock back is difficult. Why should public money be wasted? The consequences of demolition will be far more than stopping the construction now. The matter requires interpretation of the notification and the rules. A detailed hearing is required.”
Initially, senior counsel Jayant Bhushan, appearing for Kanan Bihari Jaiswal and Anand Arya, opposed the U.P. government’s plea for adjournment. He said the work must stop as more than 75 per cent was already completed and soon the entire construction would be ready.
Senior counsel and amicus curiae Harish Salve brought to the court’s notice the CEC report that recommended that work stop till environmental clearance was obtained by the State government. Senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the Noida authority, said the necessary approvals had been given.
It was alleged by environmentalists that since the site was merely 20 feet away from the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, it would have an ecological impact on the park with the noise and dust pollution caused by the construction.
The construction, the loss of greenery as well as the light pollution would have an enormous impact on the birds. Nearly 6,000 trees had been felled and the government had ignored an environment impact assessment required for such a project.