Supreme Court Orders BMC To Stop Cutting Down Aarey Forest & Release Arrested Protestors

BMC Starts Cutting Down Aarey Forest & Protestors Arrested

Update: Supreme Court ordered the government of Maharashtra to stop cutting down of the trees in the Aarey area after BMC authorities already cut down 2200 trees. This followed after Bombay High Court ordered cutting down of trees in the Aarey Forest Area on Friday.

Although as per the order, the government had to wait for 15 days moratorium, they immediately executed the deforestation. Around 2700 trees were planned to be cut down for the construction of the designated Metro Shed in the area.

The Apex Court ordered status quo on felling of trees after a group of law students wrote to Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi seeking the apex court’s urgent intervention to stop deforestation.

 As a result, a special two-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan was constituted & intervened the matter. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra Government, undertook that no further trees will be cut and that the legality of the tree felling which already took place can be decided by the environment bench after the Dusshera vacation.

“Whatever has to be cut is cut, there won’t be further cutting”, the Solicitor General said.

The Court has also directed the release of all environmental activists detained over protests against tree cutting. The matter will be next heard on October 21.

Local authorities imposed section 144 in the Aarey Forest region Mumbai, to evade protestors, while the BMC officials started cutting down trees in the area on Friday night.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on Friday night, started cutting trees in Aarey Forest. This followed after the Bombay High Court gave a hurried decision to clear the land. The order was implemented late at night. The court declined all the petitions filed by thousands of petitioners for saving 2700 trees from being cut down in the area for construction of the metro shed.

Section 144 is imposed by the government as a curfew to stop people from conducting gathering, public meetings etc. The powers can be imposed for as long as two months. On Friday Night the court implemented the section in the Aarey forest region to stop activists from coming in way of deforestation conducted by BMC.

As alleged by activists, more than 500 trees were chopped and 200 fellow activists were detained over the night after the implication of Section 144. The detained personnel are reportedly booked under section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 143 (unlawful assembly) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code.

These sections relate to criminally assaulting public servants on duty and offences of unlawful gatherings.

As is claimed by the activists, the High Court had ordered BMC to wait for 15 days before beginning any activity in the area. However, officials did not follow the order and took illegal & controversial moves and started cutting down trees in the area.

As soon as the localities and activists got the news of bulldozers and officials infiltrating the green space at midnight, they came in large numbers to oppose the incident and challenge the authorities. Many politicians, actors, ex-government officials & business leaders had played a significant role by participating in the protest against axing of the forest area.

Author: Keshav Kothari

A young CA Aspirant who is a writer and a photographer with the zeal to convey a positive perception through his work.

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