The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government not to cut any more trees at Mumbai's Aarey Colony where the felling of trees began on Friday night for a metro car shed within hours of the Bombay High Court dismissing all the petitions concerning the matter.
"Don't cut anything now," the apex court said, adding it will have to examine the entire thing. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra Government, assured the bench that henceforth no trees will be cut.
The Maharashtra government, however, also said that the required number of trees for the construction of a metro car shed had already been cut, something that might come as a big disappointment to the activists who had been protesting against the BMC 's move.
The SC will now hear the plea concerning the felling of trees in Aarey colony on October 21. It further said that if anybody was still under arrest, they should be released forthwith on furnishing of personal bonds.
The apex court had on Sunday set up a special bench on the basis of a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India by one Rishav Ranjan against the cutting of the trees.
The top court decided to register the letter as public interest litigation.
The trees are being felled to make way for a metro rake depot after the Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed a clutch of petitions challenging the Mumbai civic body's order for chopping the trees. The HC on Saturday refused to grant a stay on felling of trees.
Meanwhile, 29 protestors were released from Thane jail after bail was granted to them on Sunday. They were arrested from Aarey on charges of disturbing public order and obstructing government officials from performing their duties.
A sessions court in Mumbai on Sunday had granted these protesters bail. Additional sessions court judge H C Shende of the holiday court ordered their release on certain conditions including the production of the personal surety of Rs 7,000 and assurance that they would not take part in protests.
The arrests were made over Friday night and Saturday after clashes broke out between the police and green activists opposing axing of trees by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) in Aarey Colony in north Mumbai.
(With inputs from agencies)