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'Don't cut anything now': SC directs Fadnavis government to maintain status quo on Aarey tree felling

'Don't cut anything now': SC directs Fadnavis government to maintain status quo on Aarey tree felling

In a relief to activists and local residents of Mumbai’s Aarey, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government that no more trees are required to be cut to make way for a car shed of the Mumbai Metro.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra also directed that all those activists and protesters who were arrested or detained by the Police should be released immediately, in case they have not been released this far.

The release should be on furnishing of a personal bond.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Maharashtra Government told the bench that, “there will be no more cutting of trees in the area. All the trees that were required to be cut have been cut and no more trees will be cut now. We are all concerned about the ecological impact.”

Mehta suggested the bench that the case be taken up on a later date when the question of legality or illegality of the decision to cut trees can be examined.

However, after perusing the notification issued by the Maharashtra government, the bench said, Aarey area is a no-development zone and not an eco-sensitive zone as claimed by the petitioner.

The bench posted the case for further hearing on October 21 before the green bench.

The special hearing was conducted after a letter by law students were addressed to the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi seeking a stay on the felling of trees.

The letter states,"As we write this letter to you 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.

"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."

The student requested the Supreme Court "to exercise its epistolary jurisdiction to protect Aarey without getting into technicalities as there was no time for preparation of a proper appeal petition and cover the scars of these young activists who are responsible citizens standing for serious environmental concerns".

It also said that students have moved the apex court as the Bombay High Court rejected the bail plea of 29 activists who had participated in the "peaceful vigil" against the tree-felling and have been detained by Mumbai Police.

The letter has alleged that the student-activists were abused and manhandled by the Mumbai Police which has booked them for offences of 'assault on a public servant to deter him from discharging his duty' and 'unlawful assembly' under the IPC.

The felling of trees is being opposed by green activists and local residents.

Last week, the Bombay High Court rejected petitions challenging the Mumbai civic body's Tree Committee order approving the cutting of trees in the colony to make space for Mumbai Metro's car shed in the area.

Soon after the order, bulldozers rolled into Aarey, a green patch in north Mumbai that has shrunk over the years because of development projects.

Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon which has more than five lakh trees, together with Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is known as the green lung of Mumbai.

The trees were proposed to be cut for Mumbai metro-3 project and specifically for the construction of a car shed, it said and added the high court refused to recognise Aarey as a forest or declare it as an ecological sensitive issue because of jurisdictional limits.

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