Aarey forest: SC special bench to accord urgent hearing

A view of the construction site of a metro train parking shed for an upcoming subway line is seen in the Aarey Colony suburb of Mumbai, India, October 5, 2019. (Photo by REUTERS)

The Supreme Court on Sunday set up a special bench to consider on October 7 a plea to stop felling of trees in Aarey forest in Mumbai.

The PIL was registered, after a group of Law students on Saturday approached the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi seeking immediate intervention into the matter.

A delegation of students from a Noida-based college led by Rishav Ranjan urged the Supreme Court to issue mandamus for stay on cutting of trees by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, for a Metro train shed.

"The ‘Car Shed’ is sought to be located in 33 hectare land at Aarey. This is on the banks of the ‘Mitthi River’ and which has tributaries and channels flowing to it and emptying in the river. Its absence can flood Mumbai and it has more than 3,500 trees in it out of which 2,238 is proposed to be cut down. The question is why should a forest which has 3,500 trees in it on the banks of a river be removed," they asked.

The Bombay High Court had on Saturday rejected the plea against axing of trees for the purpose of setting up a metro rail shed.

A group of activists who protested against the decision were detained and arrested by the police.

In a letter petition, the students asked the court to exercise its epistolary jurisdiction for "environmental concerns and protection of Aarey without getting into technicalities as there was no time for preparation of a proper appeal petition".

Since the CJI was out of town, no hearing could be granted on their plea.

However, a notice put out on the Supreme Court's website stated that a special bench has been set up to hear the matter on Monday at 10 am.

In their pleas, the students said that there were objections by the citizens and many other locations were suggested for Mumbai Metro-3 project and specifically for construction of the Car Shed. However, the authorities decided to go ahead with cutting of the trees.

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