A special bench of the Supreme Court Monday stayed cutting of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey colony till its next hearing on October 21.
Calling the felling of trees illegal, the bench said, “Aarey forest was a no-development zone and not eco-sensitive zone as claimed by petitioner.” It also sought an afforestation report from the Maharashtra government.
A special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan was set up after a group of law students wrote to the Chief Justice requesting that the top court intervene to stop the cutting of trees immediately.
The tree-cutting began amid protests Friday night after the Bombay High Court dismissed a petition challenging the corporation’s decision to allow felling of 2,185 trees and transplantation of 460 for the project.
Claiming that the felling of trees is illegal, 100 to 200 protestors gathered at the Picnic Point in Aarey Colony between 8.30 pm and 11 pm on Friday. In the melee that followed, police claimed, several protesters allegedly assaulted a police inspector and a male constable. Section 144 was imposed in the area and 29 of the protesters were arrested. A holiday court Sunday released them on bail on Sunday.
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Protests have been taking place against the construction of a car shed for the Mumbai Metro at the colony for two years for the construction of a Metro Rail car shed. The issue has also taken a political turn just two weeks ahead of state elections. Except the BJP, which has maintained that the car depot in Aarey Colony would be in the interest of the city, its ally Shiv Sena, opposition parties Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Samajwadi Party, have all gatecrashed the ‘Save Aarey’ movement.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar Saturday said that the cutting of trees for the Mumbai Metro was similar to what was done in Delhi for the construction of the metro, and added that the government will plant double the trees than felled.