MUMBAI: Today, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd informed the Supreme Court of India that no cutting of trees has been carried out in the Aarey forest region in Mumbai.
The application was filed by activists and local residents alleging that the authorities have resumed the tree cutting in the Aarey forest region contrary to the status quo order passed by the Supreme Court in November 2019.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appeared for the MMRCL and denied that tree cutting was going on in the area. He informed that after the status quo order was passed in November 2019, no trees were cut.
Further, he informed that in the meantime, there were bushes, weeds, and shrubs which have grown in the area, and the authorities are only removing those. The MMRCL has filed an affidavit making these assertions.
The bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, and Aniruddha Bose said that in view of this stand taken by the MMRCL, there is no requirement for any interim order to be passed by the Court.
“No specific interim directions are called for in view of the stand taken in the recent affidavit by an on behalf of the respondent(MMRCL)..Suffice it to say that as stated by the concerned respondent, no trees have been cut since the order dated November 7, 2019, and shall not be cut till the next date of hearing”, the bench noted in the order.
On the other hand, Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh, who is appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the tree cutting has resumed in the Aarey region for the metro car shed project, despite the status quo orders.
He also informed that without considering the committee’s report which proposed the metro shed at Kanjurmarg, the authorities rejected to keep it at the Array site and have started clearing of the forests.
“What we will do is, we will order status quo till the matter is taken up”, Justice Lalit said.
“Only weeds and bushes on the ground were cleared. There is an approach road, and there were branches that required trimming for vehicles to pass through, and trimming took place. No trees were cut. They have shown photographs of some other areas”, the SG Tushar Mehta said.
The SG Tushar Mehta denied the petitioners’ allegations and commented that the senior lawyer might not have been properly briefed.
During the hearing, Justice Lalit pointed out that he had assisted the Supreme Court as an amicus curiae in the TN Godavarman Thirumalpad case (in which the Court passed directions to protect forests) and asked if there was any conflict of interest in his hearing of the matter.
I don’t see any conflict of interest”, the SG stated.
In 2019, the Supreme Court registered a suo motu case titled “In Re Felling Of Trees In Aarey Forest (Maharashtra)” based on a letter petition sent by a few law students against the cutting of the trees for the construction of a metro car shed.
The action taken by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) and other authorities to cut the trees in Array led to widespread protests by environmental activists and city residents.
The Aarey tree felling resumed after the change of government in Maharashtra recently, when the new government with Eknath Shinde as the Chief Minister announced the decision to construct the metro shed at the same place.
The Next date of hearing is 13.08.2022.
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