The Supreme Court on Monday stayed further cutting of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey, but the ruling still left those against the felling dejected as people pointed out most of the tree felling to build a Mumbai Metro car shed had already been carried out.
“Don’t cut anything now,” the special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan said while hearing a plea against the tree felling. The court said it will have to further examine the entire case and next hearing will be on October 21, according to PTI.
Petitioners told the top court that Aarey forest was deemed as “unclassified forest” by the Maharashtra government and felling of trees was illegal.
While the petitioners said Aarey an eco-sensitive zone, the court said it was not and the area was, in fact, a no development zone.
The bench asked the state government to release people who had been arrested or detained for protesting at Aarey to be released on furnishing of personal bonds, Bar&Bench reported.
The state government told the court all those arrested had been released, PTI said.
On Twitter, many felt the court’s decision was too little, too late.
People called out the government for the speed at which the tree-cutting had been carried out at Aarey.
Many also criticised the Maharashtra government for the way it carried out tree felling Aarey, saying it had anticipated the top court’s intervention.
In court, when Justice Mishra asked the state government to maintain status quo and cut no more trees, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the state, said, “No further cutting is required anymore.”
The Supreme Court decided on Sunday took suo moto cognizance of the issue after a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by a law student Rishav Ranjan sought a stay on the cutting of trees.
The letter, written by Rishav Ranjan on behalf a student delegation, said, “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.”
After the Bombay High Court declined to quash the Mumbai municipal corporation’s decision to allow felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone, 29 protesters were arrested over Friday night and Saturday after clashes broke out between the police and activists who opposing axing of trees by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd.
On Sunday, a sessions court in Mumbai on Sunday granted bail to the 29 protesters, PTI reported.