Aarey Forest Case: “Don’t cut anything now,” the apex court said while hearing petitions challenging the felling of trees to build a car shed for the Mumbai Metro.

MUMBAI Updated: Oct 07, 2019 12:22 IST

Ashok Bagriya and Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/ Mumbai

View of Metro Construction work at Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon East, Mumbai
View of Metro Construction work at Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon East, Mumbai(PTI Photo)

In a setback to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), the Supreme Court on Monday said that that no more trees are to be cut in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony till the next date of hearing on October 21.

“Don’t cut anything now,” a special bench of the apex court said while hearing petitions challenging the felling of trees to build a car shed for the Mumbai Metro.

The court also ordered the immediate release of protestors who were arrested on furnishing of personal bonds.

The SC asked Maharashtra government to maintain status quo on tree cutting and file a report on the status of saplings it has planted in the Aarey area.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court set up a special bench to hear petitions challenging the felling of trees in Aarey Colony which triggered a massive protest over the weekend with activists saying ecological damage to one of the city’s only green lungs.

The SC registry in a notice had said that the court had taken suo motu cognisance of a letter by law students, dated October 6, and set up a special bench to hear the matter on Monday. The notice said that the letter urging the top court to pay urgent attention to Aarey was treated as a public interest litigation.

The MMRC had begun chopping trees Friday night hours after the Bombay high court dismissed petitions challenging the felling of 2,464 trees from Aarey Milk Colony to make way for a car shed for Mumbai Metro Line – 3.

Locals and activists claimed that hundreds of trees have already been cut.

The SC ruling asking authorities to maintain status quo at Aarey is a setback for MMRC.

Sources said that the work at site stopped on Sunday evening after the Supreme Court scheduled a suo moto hearing on the matter. Sources, however, said that more than 1800 trees have already been cut in the car-shed area site since Friday.

MMRC, however, continues to be tight-lipped about the entire action. Even after three days of stir at Aarey, there has been no official communication from MMRC except a few tweets from Ashwini Bhide, the managing director of MMRC.

On Friday, Bhide tweeted that there is false propaganda being spread about authorities having to wait for 15 days after the tree-cutting permissions were uploaded on the website