The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday ordered the Maharashtra government to stop axing of more trees at Mumbai's Aarey forest area until the matter is heard in further detail. The SC bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan will now hear the matter on October 21 and it has also made the Union Environment Ministry a party in the case.
The felling of trees at Aarey to set up a Metro car shed is being opposed by green activists and local residents. The SC on Sunday registered as PIL a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by some students urging apex court's intervention to stop the cutting of trees at Aarey forest area.
"As we write this letter to you the 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 the authorities. Not only this but our friends are put in jail who were peacefully organising a vigil against the acts of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) with Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) at the site," read the letter.
During the hearing, the Maharashtra government told the SC it has already cut the trees required. Maharashtra government has also been asked by the top court to file an affidavit on the status of the saplings planted. "Tell us how many saplings you planted. How have they grown? What's the status of your forests?," the SC told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who was appearing for the state government and other authorities. The SC also said that it will examine if Aarey is part of the eco-sensitive zone or not.
The apex court also ordered the state government to release all activists who were arrested for violating prohibitory orders during the cutting of trees. "In case those are still not released shall be released immediately," Mehta told the SC.