Aarey Colony, deforestation, cutting of trees
An activist holds a placard during a protest against the felling of trees at Mumbai's Aarey Colony, on Sunday (PTI)

Supreme Court begins Aarey case hearing; 29 arrested activists released

A case pertaining to the felling of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey colony will be heard by a special bench of the Supreme Court on Monday (October 7). The special bench was constituted by the apex court on the basis of a letter written to the Chief Justice of India against the felling of trees.

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A case pertaining to the felling of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey colony for the construction of a car shed for the Mumbai Metro is being heard by a special bench of the Supreme Court on Monday (October 7).

The special bench was constituted by the apex court on the basis of a letter written to the Chief Justice of India against the felling of trees, reported news agency PTI. The letter, written by Rishav Ranjan, was registered as a public interest litigation (PIL) and a notice regarding Monday’s urgent hearing was put up on the court’s website.

“Take notice that a special bench has been constituted to hear the matter tomorrow i.e. October 7, 2019 at 10.00 AM on the basis of a letter dated October 6, 2019 addressed by Rishav Ranjan with regard to the felling of trees in Aarey forest, state of Maharashtra which has been registered as a public interest litigation,” the notice said.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde is appear on behalf of the activists while the state’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is appearing for the government, media reports said.

Also read | Bollywood celebs express anger over tree cutting in Aarey

A day earlier, a Mumbai court granted bail to as many as 29 green activists who were arrested for protesting against the felling of trees by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) in Aarey Colony. Thereafter, they were released.

The Borivali holiday court has granted bail to the protesters and they will be released after submitting a bail bond of ₹7,000. They were detained under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for obstructing government officials from performing their duties.

Despite the release order, prohibitory orders continue to be in force in Aarey Colony and the surrounding areas for the second day, as felling of trees is underway to make way for a Metro car shed, a police officer said.

Also read | Uddhav Thackeray promises to deal with ‘Aarey murderers’ after polls

Heavy security was deployed at Aarey Colony’s five entry points, including the key connecting road near the Western Express Highway, to prevent people from approaching
the area and to avoid any untoward incident, he said. Most of the shops, restaurants and roadside stalls remained closed in the area in view of the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), banning unlawful assembly, since Saturday.

The police official said the situation was expected to become normal soon. Patrolling was stepped up in the tribal hamlets located in Aarey area and those found assembling there were being taken into custody, but later let off after proper verification, he said.

Meanwhile, Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation, taking it to Twitter, said, destruction was inevitable. “Sometimes to construct something new destruction becomes inevitable but it also paves the way for new life and new creation. The life cycle is fluid. It doesn’t stop at one place. The craving for creation is happening again and again. The new palate is bursting. Renewal is happening,” she tweeted.

Also read | Students seek Bear Grylls’ help for ‘Save Aarey Trees’ campaign

On Saturday, clashes broke out between the police and green activists who tried to stop tree cutting by MMRCL in Aarey Colony, leading to arrest of at least 29 people.

The MMRCL started hacking trees from Friday night to make way for the car shed, hours after the Bombay High Court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision to allow felling of nearly 2,700 trees in the prime green lung of the city.

“Several trees in the area have been cut and security has been tightened,” the police official said. He said that Section 144 of the CrPC will remain imposed in the area till the completion of cutting of the prescribed number of trees.

Also read | Bombay HC quashes pleas seeking forest tag for Aarey

“We have identified five major spots which are broadly used to get access into the Aarey Colony, including from the Western Express Highway, Marol police training camp centre and one route coming from Mulund side,” he said.

“Police personnel have been deployed on all these spots. Pedestrians have been advised not to venture into five km area in the vicinity of Aarey Colony. Besides, those residing in the area need to show their Aadhaar cards to move around. We are ensuring that no one is allowed free access to the disputed area,” he said. Several senior police officials are on bandobast duty, he added.

Earlier, opposition parties slammed the ruling BJP- Shiv Sena, stating they failed to save the trees. Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray also criticised the MMRCL and backed the protesters.

The MMRCL has defended tree felling by contending that it is restricted only to a small area in Aarey Colony, and is necessary to ensure a modern transport system for Mumbaikars. The proposed car shed for the Metro-3 line (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) will occupy 33 hectares.

(With inputs from agencies)

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