New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday restrained authorities from cutting anymore trees in Mumbai’s Aarey colony to set up a Metro car shed and asked them to maintain the status quo.
A special bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan said it will have to examine the entire thing and posted the matter for hearing on October 21 before its forest bench.
“Don’t cut anything now,” the bench said.
Justice Mishra also inquired if all the persons arrested or detained for protesting against the felling of trees have been released or not.
“If they have not been released, release them immediately on furnishing personal bond,” he said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra and Mumbai’s civic body, told the special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan that whatever was required to be cut for the Metro car shed has already been done and they would not fell any more trees.
“We will decide this. Do not cut more trees,” the bench said, adding, “Do not cut anything now”.
It further said: “As undertaken, status quo be maintained till the next date of hearing with respect to cutting of trees.”
“Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General appearing for the state of Maharashtra, has stated that they are not going to cut any further trees till the next date of hearing. In the circumstances, the statement is quite fair,” it said.
The cutting of trees is being opposed by green activists and local residents.
The apex court decided on Sunday to register as PIL a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by law student Rishav Ranjan seeking a stay on the cutting of trees.
A notice was posted on the Supreme Court website about holding the urgent hearing.
Also read: ‘Posturing & double standard’ — why Shiv Sena is drawing flak for leading Aarey stir
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for one of the petitioners before the Bombay High Court, said states are required to notify an area as forest as per an earlier direction of the apex court but Maharashtra has still not done so.
He said that Aarey forest was deemed as an ‘unclassified forest’ and felling of trees in the eco-sensitive zone there was illegal.
However, after perusing the notification issued by the Maharashtra government, the bench said, Aarey area is “a no development zone” and not a eco-sensitive zone as claimed by the petitioner.
Construction activity cannot be carried out in a ‘no development zone’.
“Is there any notification that it is a eco-sensitive zone? Is there any notification regarding withdrawing of this area as an eco-sensitive zone? We want to know whether it was a forest or eco-sensitive zone. Where have you found that it is an eco-sensitive zone? It was a no development zone, not an eco-sensitive zone,” the bench observed.
The Metro authorities have defended tree felling by contending that it is restricted only to a small area in Aarey Colony, and is necessary to ensure a modern transport system for Mumbaikars.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the letter petitioner, told the bench that “the court has been presented with a fait accompli”.
Mehta said the entire area of Aarey is of around 3,000 acres and only two per cent, that is 33 hectares, was given for the metro shed project.
“That is not the issue whether you are using one or two per cent of the area. If it is legally not permitted, then it will not be permitted,” the bench said.
The bench told Mehta that the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) should also be made a party in the case.
(With PTI inputs)
Also read: Rs 50,000 fine for Shiv Sena man & praise for Metro — Here’s the full HC verdict on Aarey
I am glad the government chopped down those trees before the Tuglaqs of the SC got a chance to do more damage. The foreign funded NGOs are doing everything possible to derail Indian society and development. The jokers of SC seem to be in cahoots with them. They are ever ready to lend sympathetic rulings in favor of breaking India forces at a moment’s notice, while common people wait for decades for justice.
This is the SC we have always respected and admired. 2. Whatever the merits of the case, two things could have been done differently. There was no need to start chopping trees in the middle of the night, to present the apex court with a fait accompli. Second, the protestors, including students appearing for exams, ought to have been shown more consideration. It is rare for Mumbaikars to get involved. This protest came from the heart. Sach poochho toh, even my heart was beating for the trees.
This SC would make Tuglaq proud.
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