Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday pulled up the activists fighting against the government authorities over protection of Aarey Colony in suburban Goregaon. The HC slammed the activists for their ‘Declare Aarey A Forest’ chorus.

A bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre suggested the activists to focus on the ‘species’ found in Aarey and how they would be affected due to the construction of car shed for the controversial Metro III line.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by NGO Vanshakti seeking direction to the government authorities to declare Aarey as a forest. The petition claimed that Aarey has been categorised as an ‘unclassified’ forest since 1940s and thus should now be declared as a forest under the Forest Act so as to protect its trees.

During the course of the hearing, the judges pointed out that the activists had ‘poorly’ drafted the plea and the documents they relied upon showed that out of the over 37000 hectares land (at Aarey), 2076 was already notified for revenue.

“You (activists) must understand that only saying Aarey is a forest again and again won’t be suffice. You have to accept the fact that there is no documentary evidence to show that it is a forest,” CJ Nandrajog said.

“We are aware of all the public debates that are going on. Such debates would go on but we are only concerned with law and facts,” CJ Nandrajog remarked.

The judges then went on to say that even as the activists were fighting for a ‘worthy’ cause but they were unable to put it across, properly.

“You have a point but it appears you are unable to put it in a proper manner. Instead of chanting forest.. forest.. forest argue on the importance of the biodiversity there. The adverse impact, the biodiversity might suffer due to all these activities,” CJ Nandrajog told the activists.

The bench then said it would look into the question whether Aarey Colony is a forest, and if it is not, can the a court of law issue a direction that it be declared a forest.

“If we arrive at the conclusion that Aarey has to be declared as forest then all the other issues do not arise as all the environmental restrictions come in place,” CJ Nandrajog said.

Meanwhile, the bench also referred to a satellite image, provided by one of the authorities, which show that Aarey is not a ‘densely or moderately dense’ forest and instead it is shown to be an ‘open forest.’

Accordingly, the bench stated that forest does not mean just trees and plants. “What we common people call forest, a real environmentalist may call a jungle.

Forest is like the Amazon forest where the vegetation is so rich and thick that sunlight does not reach the ground,” the bench remarked. The judges would continue hearing the matter on Wednesday.

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