On July 16, 2019, the High Court of Bombay (HC), in its response to public interest litigations filed by various citizen's groups, stayed the development of the proposed Mumbai Coastal Road Project (MCRP) that aimed to connect Marine Drive in the south of Mumbai to Kandivali in the north via a road along the western coast of the city (we had analyzed the decision of the HC in our Infrastructure and Energy Digest for July 2019) . The petitions filed before the HC prayed for the quashing of the MCRP on numerous grounds pertaining to the environmental risk of the MCRP, the discrepancies in the approvals (or lack thereof) granted for the MCRP by the relevant authorities, and the effect of the MCRP on the livelihoods of various communities, amongst others. The judgment of the HC was appealed before the Supreme Court of India (SC)SC by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) (the lead promoter of the MCRP) and the related project developers and authorities. On December 17, 2019, the SC partially stayed the HC's judgment and allowed the construction of the road. The matter still pending before the SC and is now to be heard on April 4, 2019.

What was the holding of the SC?

The SC passed an interim order staying the judgment of the HC in consideration of the factors of balance of convenience; prima facie case and irreparable damage / injury. The SC held that the petitioners (the MCGM and others) were free to reclaim the land and build and secure the road thereon. However, the SC stated that the petitioners were barred from carrying out any other developmental work until the further orders of the SC.

Our view: It appears that the SC has divided the operations of the MCRP into the construction of the road itself and the ancillary development of the reclaimed area while deciding to allow the construction of the road. The SC appears to have considered the pleas of the project developers and the costs incurred by them due to the operations having been shut down by the order of the HC. The SC, therefore, has allowed the continuation of the at least the 'road' aspect of the MCRP. It remains to be seen what the approach of the SC will be regarding the granting of the CRZ clearance by the MoEF and the status of the EC. This is no doubt a welcome relief to the BMC and the contractors involved in the project who have claimed a loss of INR 10 crore a day (also machinery worth Rs 150 crore is lying unused, while 1,150 workers are sitting idle at the site, according to the plea).

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