The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra Government to not cut any more trees at Aarey Colony in Mumbai. Supreme Court also ordered release of anyone arrested in relation to this matter. The Green Bench of Supreme Court will now hear the matter on October 21. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra Government, assured the bench that no trees will be cut henceforth.
A special bench of Supreme Court held an urgent hearing after taking cognisance of the matter on Sunday. The top court on Sunday set up the special bench on the basis of a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India by one Rishav Ranjan against the cutting of the trees. The top court decided to register the letter as a public interest litigation.
"It Appears Aarey Was Forest At Some Time"
The special bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan heard the PIL. While Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Maharashtra Government, advocates Sanjay Hegde and Gopal Sankaranarayan appeared for the students and activists.
The bench asked if there was any official notification declaring Aarey to be an eco-sensitive zone.
"Show us that notification," the bench directed, "It was a no development zone but not an eco-sensitive zone.This is what we get. If you say otherwise, show us the documents."
Sankaranarayan argued that the 2012 Management plan for Sanjay Gandhi National Park describes Aarey as an unclassified forest. He produced a 2012 notification to the state of Maharashtra saying Aarey was a forest.
After the bench said it appeared that Aarey was some kind of forest at some time and asked Maharashtra government to not cut any more trees. The Supreme Court asked for 'status quo' to be maintained in matter of cutting of trees. The top court recorded an undertaking by Maharashtra government assuring that no more trees will be cut in Aarey.
It also ordered the Mumbai police to release all the activists who were arrested over the past 2 days, if they had not been released yet.
Arrested Activists Released On Bail
Green activists have been opposing cutting of trees by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) for in Aarey Colony in north Mumbai to make way for the car shed.
Earlier on Monday, the 29 protesters, arrested over the last two days on charges of allegedly obstructing and assaulting police personnel on duty during protests against felling of trees at Aarey Colony, were released from Thane jail. A sessions court had granted bail to protesters on Sunday. Additional sessions court judge HC Shende of the holiday court ordered their release on certain conditions including production of personal surety of Rs 7,000 and assurance that they would not take part in protests.
The arrests were made over Friday night and Saturday after clashes broke out between the police and green activists opposing axing of trees by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) in Aarey Colony in north Mumbai.