A special bench of the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to ensure that no trees are further axed at Mumbai's Aarey Colony. A Supreme Court Green Bench will hear the matter next on 21 October and the Union Environment Ministry will also be made a party in the case.
"Don't cut any more trees now. It appears to us that it was some kind of forest at some time," the Supreme Court said, in essence ordering a status quo by halting the felling of trees which was in progress since late hours of Friday night after Bombay High Court refused to declare the area a forest.
The Supreme Court also sought a report from the Maharashtra government on compulsory afforestation efforts taken by it and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC). "Tell us how many saplings you planted. How have they grown? What's the status of your forests?," the Supreme Court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who was appearing for the state government and other authorities.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court over 20,000 trees were planted in the last few years by the government. But, it failed to convince the top court, which asked the state to place a report with photographs mentioning how many trees have since survived.
So is the SC order on Aarey tree felling redundant?
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) started axing the trees on Friday night after the Bombay High Court rejected a bunch of petitions filed by NGOs and activists against the tree felling. Many trees were cut over the weekend.
But now the Maharashtra government told the Supreme Court today that no more trees need to be cut at Mumbai's Aarey and those that had to be removed have been cut. Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the Maharashtra government, told the Supreme Court that "What is required to be cut has been cut. No further cutting of trees is required."
So if the Maharashtra government says that trees that need to be cut, have been cut, which makes the Supreme Court's order redundant. And also the efforts of the student’s delegation has gone to waste.