Aarey case: Supreme Court asks Maharashtra government to maintain status quo

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New Delhi | Published: October 8, 2019 5:20:26 AM

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to maintain status quo on cutting of trees in the Aarey forest for a Metro car shed after the latter assured it that no further trees will be felled till the next date of court hearing on October 21.

An activist holds a placard during a protest against cutting down of trees for a proposed metro car shed project at Aarey Colony in Mumbai. (AP Photo)An activist holds a placard during a protest against cutting down of trees for a proposed metro car shed project at Aarey Colony in Mumbai. (AP Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to maintain status quo on cutting of trees in the Aarey forest for a Metro car shed after the latter assured it that no further trees will be felled till the next date of court hearing on October 21.

A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan was convened exclusively to hear the case after the apex court took suo motu cognisance of a letter written by Rishav Ranjan, a law student, to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi about the cutting of over 2,600 trees in the Aarey, which is located adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

The felling of trees is being opposed by green activists and local residents. Uddhav Thackeray, chief of the ruling BJP’s coalition partner Shiv Sena, and his son, Aaditya, have supported the activists.

The letter, which was treated as a PIL by the SC, also said that Aarey forest was an unclassified forest and the felling of trees was illegal and robbing Mumbai of its green lungs.

“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 law student said, adding that people were put in jail.

Assuring the apex court that they are not going to cut any further trees till the next date of hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Maharashtra government, said that it had already cut down trees that were required for its plan to clear 33 hectare of Aarey land for the construction of the depot. “What is required to be cut has been cut. No further cutting of trees is required,” he said.

He also informed that the detained protestors have already been released, and if there are any left they would be also freed soon. Mehta further said that over 20,000 trees had been planted to make up for the loss of Aarey’s trees.

“In the circumstances, the statement is quite fair. It is stated by 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 noted in its order, while asking parties to maintain status quo till the next date of hearing on October 21.

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