A special bench of Supreme Court on Monday, October 7, ordered the Maharashtra government to not cut any more trees at Mumbai's Aarey colony.
Around 2,600 trees were scheduled to be felled for the construction of a metro car shed.
A special bench, consisting of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan, was constituted after a group of law students urged Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to intervene in the matter.
"Special bench has been constituted to hear the matter tomorrow i.e. 7th October 2019 at 10.00 a.m. on the basis of a letter dated 6th October 2019 addressed by Rishav Ranjan with regard to felling of trees in state of Maharashtra which has been registered as a public interest litigation," a notice by the apex court read.
Prior to the urgent hearing, the 29 activists arrested for protesting against cutting the trees were given conditional bail on Sunday.
Next hearing scheduled for October 21
The SC bench has scheduled the next hearing in the case for October 21. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has also asked to include Union Environment Ministry as a party in the case.
No further cutting of trees at Mumbai's Aarey colony
SC has stayed further cutting of trees at Mumbai's Aarey colony. "Whatever has to be cut is cut, there won't be further cutting," the bench said.
Aarey not an eco-sensitive zone
"What we are understanding is Aarey is a non-development area, but not an eco-sensitive zone," countered Justice Mishra.
What constituted a forest?
Justice Arun Mishra questioned the counsellors and asked them to show evidence that Aarey is a forest.
Advocate Hegde said that SC's definition of what constitutes a forest has not changed since 1997.
Is Aarey a forest?
"The issue of whether Aarey is a forest or not is pending in the Supreme Court. The NGT is considering the issue of whether the area is eco-sensitive zone. Therefore, the authorities should have refrained from cutting down trees pending decision," said Shankaranarayanan during the hearing.
1,500 trees chopped
Nearly 1,500 trees were chopped on the first day of the felling. Around 29 people were arrested and 38 booked.
Section 144 imposed around Aarey
Ahead of the crucial SC hearing, section 144 of the CrPC was imposed around Mumbai's Aarey colony.
Supreme Court commences hearing
The hearing in SC against the felling of trees in Mumbai's Aarey colony has begun. Sanjay Hegde is appearing for the petitioners, along with senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan.