The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would take a stern view, if Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) violates its undertaking of not cutting trees in Aarey forest.
A bench headed by Justice U.U. Lalit said MMRCL should not go ahead with any developmental work in the forest area. Senior advocate Anitha Shenoy, appearing for the petitioners, refuted the contents of the affidavit filed by the MMRCL during the previous hearing. She said levelling and other work is going on and there should not be any work in the area.
The top court noted that in October 2019 an assurance was given that no tree will be cut in any manner. The bench, also comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, noted "advocate Rukmini Bobde, appearing for MMRC said her clients have already filed an affidavit that no trees have been cut since the 7.10.2019 order and would not be cut in any manner". After hearing arguments, the top court has placed the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.
On August 5, MMRCL told the Supreme Court that no tree cutting has been carried out in Aarey forest in Mumbai, rather some weeds and branches were removed.
Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh, representing the petitioners, had then contended that tree cutting had been resumed in the Aarey forest region for the metro car shed project, despite the status quo orders. The top court noted that the matter needs to be heard in detail.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing MMRCL, submitted that no tree cutting was going on in the area, and after the status quo order was passed by the top court in 2019, no tree was cut. He added that there were bushes, weeds, and shrubs, which have grown in the area, and they were being removed by the concerned authority. Mehta emphasized that only trimming of certain branches were carried out citing the affidavit filed by MMRCL in the matter.
The apex court had taken suo motu cognisance of the protests against the cutting of trees in the Aarey car shed plot in 2019. It had ordered status quo on October 7, 2019, after Mehta gave an undertaking that no fresh felling of trees would be done till the next date of hearing. The status quo order had been extended from time to time.