The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a plea seeking direction to stop the construction of a metro car shed under the project of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) in Aarey forest area on July 29.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant posted the matter for Friday after senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan mentioned it for urgent hearing saying that the authorities have started cutting trees again despite there being a stay order of the court.
He said, more trees in the forest could be cut over the weekend to make space for the construction.
“They will operate more JCBs over the weekend, hence, the urgency. Please list the matter tomorrow,” said Shankarnaraynan.
In 2019, the Supreme Court asked the Maharashtra government to stop cutting trees in the Aarey forest area and directed it to maintain the status quo.
Filing the fresh application, the petitioner, NGO Vanashakti sought direction that two matters pending before the NGT, Pune and Bombay High Court be decided expeditiously.
It said that matter before the NGT was related to challenging the notification of December 5, 2016, of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), excluding a certain plot of land measuring 165 hectares from the Ecological Sensitive Zone. The Bombay High Court has seized the petition seeking a declaration that the entire land of the Aarey Milk Colony is forest land.
“Since the restoration of the forests of Aarey Milk Colony is not possible once the trees are cut and the flood plains of the Mithi river covered over with concrete, the more prudent approach would be to order the immediate final hearing cases pending before the Bombay High Court and the NGT, Pune, and, in the interim, order all construction work in the Aarey Milk Colony to temporarily stopped,” it said.
The petitioner said, “It has set out photographs including satellite images and google maps showing the lush forest cover as it exists today and also the photographs showing the massive construction work that is going on at full speed and with hundreds of trees already cut”.
The top court in its 2019 order had stayed cutting trees in the Aarey first area while hearing a suo moto PIL based on a letter written by a group of law students to the court against the felling of trees.
In October 2019, MMRCL started axing the trees after the Bombay High Court rejected a bunch of petitions filed by NGOs and activists against the tree felling. Resolved to save the trees, many protestors gathered at the site to raise their voice against the felling of trees. Later, more people joined the protestors near the Aarey colony area, where the Mumbai Police imposed Section 144, thereby banning unlawful assembly.
The protesters had been demanding the relocation of the bus depot, which is a part of the Metro III project. (ANI)