The Supreme Court has constituted a special bench for an urgent hearing on Monday regarding the felling of trees in Mumbai's Aarey to set up a Metro car shed which is being opposed by green activists and a section of people, including residents. The apex court decided on Sunday to register as public interest litigation a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by a law student Rishav Ranjan seeking a stay on the cutting of trees.
A notice was posted on the Supreme Court website about holding the urgent hearing.
"Take notice that a special bench has been constituted to hear the matter tomorrow i.e October 7, 2019 at 10.00 AM on the basis of a letter dated October 6, 2019 addressed by Rishav Ranjan with regard to felling of trees in Aarey forest, state of Maharashtra which has been registered as a public interest litigation," the notice said.
The letter sent to the CJI by Rishav Ranjan on behalf a student delegation on Sunday comes two days after the Bombay High Court 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 letter states, "As we write this letter to you the 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 the authorities.
"Not only this but our friends are put in jail who were peacefully organising a vigil against the acts of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) with Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) at the site."
The students in their letter have requested the Supreme Court "to exercise its epistolary jurisdiction to protect Aarey without getting into technicalities as there was no time for preparation of a proper appeal petition and cover the scars of these young activists who are responsible citizens standing for serious environmental concerns".
It also said that the students have moved the apex court as the Bombay High Court 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 has alleged that the student-activists were abused and manhandled by the Mumbai Police which has booked them for the offences of 'assault on a public servant to deter him from discharging his duty' and 'unlawful assembly' under the IPC.
According to the letter, Aarey forest is located adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and has five lakh trees.
The trees were proposed to be cut for Mumbai metro-3 project and specifically for the construction of a car shed, it said and added that the high court refused to recognise Aarey as a forest or declare it as an ecological sensitive issue because of jurisdictional limits.
The police on Saturday imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Aarey, restricting movements and gathering of groups, and cordoned off the area.
First Published: IST