The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that due to delay caused by litigations related to construction of a car depot at Aarey Colony, more trees have to be cut down than originally intended, reported Bar and Bench.

Senior Advocate Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the metro rail, told the court that initially an application was filed to remove 84 trees.

“This issue remained pending in courts for four years thanks to the petitioners,” Kumbhakoni said. “During this period, four monsoon seasons have passed. So at that time, what were saplings did not fall under definition of trees, but they have grown naturally and have become trees.”

In October 2019, a group of law students had written to Ranjan Gogoi, who was then the chief justice of India, asking him to intervene and stop the cutting of trees at Aarey Colony, which is considered the last remaining green lung of Mumbai. The Supreme Court had then ordered a status quo on the metro rail project.

However, in November last year, the Supreme Court allowed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited to approach the tree authority for permission to cut 84 trees. The tree authority had allowed the felling of 177 trees, a decision which was challenged by activist Zoru Bhathena last month, reported PTI.

At Thursday’s hearing, Kumbhakoni said that despite the Supreme Court order allowing the rail authorities to “clean shave the land”, they have not been able to work.

“On the contrary, this obstruction of the petitioner amounts to obstruction of implementation of the Supreme court order in its true form,” the lawyer argued.

In an affidavit, the authorities added: “The depot work is required to be completed by October 2023. Even a single day delay to the project would cause a loss of Rs 5.87 crore to the public exchequer.”

Advocate Zaman Ali, representing Bhathena, sought an adjournment to seek clarification on the additional saplings and trees.

“These are not shrubs but trees of 25 feet height,” he told the court. “I take strong objection to this statement. This was not informed to the Supreme Court when the hearing took place. It should have been clarified.”