The Supreme Court Friday extended the interim order by which it had stayed further cutting of trees in Mumbai's Aarey colony for setting up the Metro car shed. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said it will hear the matter at length in December.
On October 21, the top court had clarified that there is no stay on the construction of the Mumbai Metro car shed at Aarey Colony but the status quo order is only applicable on felling of trees there.
It had asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to submit a report on the number of trees cut, afforestation and trans-plantation being carried out in lieu of felling of trees at Mumbai's prominent green lung.
The civic body had assured the top court that no further felling of tree will be done in Aarey colony area and complete status quo will be maintained following the apex court's order.
The top court asked the BMC to submit a status report on the activities proposed in the Aarey forest area.
The top court also asked the Mumbai Metro to submit pictures of the afforestration, transplantation, measurement of girth and height of trees planted, and tree felling done in the area.
Mumbai Metro had claimed that they have transplanted over 5,000 of trees and assured the court that absolute status quo is being maintained with regard to felling of trees in the area.
The felling of trees is being opposed by green activists and local residents.
The apex court had earlier directed that if anybody is still under arrest for protesting the cutting of trees, they should be released forthwith on furnishing of personal bonds.
The PIL petitioners had told the bench that the Aarey forest was deemed as an "unclassified forest" by the state government and felling of trees was illegal.
However, after perusing the notification issued by the Maharashtra government, the bench had said, the Aarey area is a no development zone and not a eco-sensitive zone as claimed by the petitioner.
The apex court had decided to register as PIL a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by law student Rishav Ranjan seeking a stay on cutting of trees.
The Bombay High Court had on October 4 refused to declare Aarey Colony a forest and declined to quash the Mumbai municipal corporation's decision to allow felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a metro car shed.
The law student in the letter said that "as we write this letter to you, Mumbai authorities continue to kill the lungs of Mumbai i.e Aarey forest by clearing of trees near Mithi river bank and according to news reports 1,500 trees have already been cleared by authorities".
Students have moved the apex court as the high court has rejected the bail plea of 29 activists who had participated in the "peaceful vigil" against the tree-felling and have been detained by Mumbai Police, the letter stated.
The Aarey forest is located adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and has five lakh trees, it said.
The trees were proposed to be cut for Mumbai metro-3 project and specifically for construction of a car shed, it said and added the high court refused to recognise Aarey as a forest or declare it as an ecological sensitive issue because of jurisdictional limits.