The Supreme Court today ordered the State of Maharashtra not to cut any further trees in Aarey and maintain the status quo till the next date of hearing.
The order was passed by a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan in a letter petition.
The matter will be taken up by the Forest Bench on October 21.
After the Bombay High Court dismissed pleas challenging the removal of trees in Aarey, and thereafter refused to entertain an urgent request to stay the tree removal, the municipal authorities had begun clearing the trees in Aarey. It is reported that around 1,500 trees were cut in the first round.
This had prompted a student delegation to write a letter to the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to intervene in the matter.
Treating the letter as a petition, a Bench was constituted to hear the matter today though the Supreme Court is currently shut for Dussehra break.
The representation addressed to the CJI dated October 6 highlighted that,
“…by the time an appeal is filed (against the Bombay High Court verdict) in the Hon’ble Supreme Court, we feel the part of Aarey will be cleared with all trees axed leading to irrevocable loss.”
The petition also raised concerns over the treatment meted out to peaceful protesters. Several activists were detained by the Mumbai Police on October 4, Friday, and have been unable to contact their families, the representation highlights. Those who tried to protest, emulating the Chipko movement were lathi-charged by the Mumbai Police several times, it further states.
“These were …law students, young activists, and rural youth in that vigil. It is reported by them that the rate of felling was around 7 trees every 10 minutes. By the time an appeal is filed and the matter is listed in the Supreme Court the unwanted irrevocable loss will be done. This makes this petition urgent”, the representation states.
It was also informed that on Sunday morning, various detained activists were charged for non-bailable offences under Sections 353, 352, 143 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code.
In view of these concerns, the representation signed off by Rishav Ranjan, a 4th-year law student of Lloyd Law College, Noida, had put forward the following request,
“The delegation requests the Hon’ble Supreme Court to exercise its Epistolary Jurisdiction to protect Aarey without getting into technicalities as there was no time for preparation of proper appeal petition and cover the scars of these young activists who are responsible citizens standing for serious environmental concerns. The counsel pleads to urgently get this matter listed as Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution as the Hon’ble Court had showered its Epistolary Jurisdiction in cases like Bhandhua Mukti Morcha v Union Of India, Peoples Union of Democratic Rights and others v Union of India and Sheela Barse v State of Maharashtra. The delegation wants you to pass any order possible for a stay on the acts of Municipal Corporation.
The present petition seeks orders on writs of Mandamus for a stay on felling of trees by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai…”