Observing that the hearing of the main petition will take time, the bench resolved to hear the prayer for interim reliefs.
ON Thursday, in the case regarding the felling of trees at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, the site designated for the construction of a metro car shed, the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India (‘CJI’) Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justices Hima Kohli and J.B. Pardiwala posted the matter to be heard in respect of interim reliefs sought by both parties on Tuesday.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioners, prayed for the main petition to be heard. He submitted that an alternate land for building the metro car shed is available. The effect on ecology on account of the felling of trees will have incremental effects, Sankaranarayanan emphasised.
The CJI observed that hearing the main petition will take time. However, the bench directed that all the interim applications be heard on Tuesday, November 29. A common compilation of the salient features of the matter was directed to be submitted to the court before the next date.
On Wednesday, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (‘MMRCL’) submitted that 84 trees needed to be cut, subject to the decision of the tree felling committee.
In 2019, the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of a letter petition addressed to the CJI, praying for a stay on the felling of trees in Aarey Colony.
On October 4, 2019, the Bombay High Court rejected petitions filed by NGOs and activists to declare Aarey Colony as a ‘Reserved Forest’ or a ‘Protected Forest’ under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, and refused to stop the felling of over 2,500 trees for a metro car shed project. After the dismissal of petitions, the MMRCL started axing the trees in the colony, which was followed by protests.
By an order dated October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court recorded the submission of Mehta, who had appeared for the Maharashtra government that no further trees would be cut till the next date of hearing. Consequently, the bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan, directed the status quo to be maintained with respect to cutting trees.
On August 24, in pursuance of an affidavit filed by the MMRCL that no trees had been cut since October 2019 and no trees would be further cut in any manner, a three-bench judge comprising Justices U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia strictly directed the MMRCL to abide by its undertaking of no cutting of trees in Aarey Colony.