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Supreme Court orders status quo in Aarey case till Oct 21; Maharashtra assures no trees will be felled

Workers remove chopped trees from Aarey after the Supreme Court paused further felling of trees in the area, on Monday.

Workers remove chopped trees from Aarey after the Supreme Court paused further felling of trees in the area, on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Vijay Bate

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The Supreme Court on Monday commenced hearing on a plea against felling of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey to set up a Metro car shed.

The Supreme Court on Monday recorded an assurance given by the State of Maharashtra that no more trees will be felled in the Aarey forest for a Metro car shed till the next date of court hearing on October 21.

A Special Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan, convened urgently and exclusively to hear the case after the apex court took suo motu cognisance of a letter written by law student Rishav Ranjan to the Chief Justice of India about the cutting of over 2600 trees in the Aarey, ordered status quo.

The Bench also recorded the submission made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for Maharashtra, that the detained protestors have already been released, and if any are left to be freed, they would be so immediately on the furnishing of personal bond.

Watch | Aarey Colony protests 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 is stated by Mr. Mehta that the incumbents who have been arrested have been released.  It is further submitted that in case anybody has not been released so far, he/she be released immediately on furnishing personal bond.  Let the statement made be carried out in pith and substance," the court directed in its short order.

Ordering "status quo to be maintained till the next date of hearing with respect to cutting of trees", the court ordered the parties to exchange pleadings by the next date of hearing before the Forest Bench.

However, in the course of the order, the Bench mentioned a pending Special Leave Petition of last year in which it was pointed out that as "seen from the Management Plan for Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali, Mumbai, some of the areas of the Aarey Milk Colony were transferred to revenue lands from the un-classed forests".


"However, identity of the area is to be established by the petitioners, though, it was orally stated that the area in question fell in the un-classed forest," the court noted.

The felling of trees is being opposed by green activists and local residents. The letter said Aarey Forest was an unclassified forest and the felling of trees, robbing Mumbai of its green lungs, was illegal.

The Bombay High Court had on October 4 refused to declare Aarey Colony a forest and declined to quash a Mumbai Municipal decision to permit the cutting of the trees for the metro car shed. Restrictions under Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure was imposed in the Aarey area on Saturday.

A notice was published on the Supreme Court website on Sunday informing of the suo motu taking up of the case under the title 'Re: Felling of trees in Aarey Forest (Maharashtra)' on the basis of Mr. Ranjan's evocative letter.

"Mumbai authorities continue to kill the lungs of Mumbai i.e Aarey forest by clearing of trees near Mithi river bank and according to news reports 1,500 trees have already been cleared by authorities," the letter said.

"Not only this but our friends are put in jail who were peacefully organising a vigil against acts of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) with Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) at the site," it said.

Aarey forest is located adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and has five lakh trees.

Watch | Aarey Colony protests cutting of trees
Watch | Aarey Colony protests cutting of trees

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 1:49:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-hearing-on-aarey-tree-cutting/article29614673.ece

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