The Maharashtra government was asked by a Special Bench of the Supreme Court on Monday to make sure that no more trees were axed at the Mumbai Aarey Colony.
The government was instructed by a Bench of Judges Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan to maintain the status quo and said on 21 October the matter would be proceeded to hear the petitions.
Upon hearing a suo moto PIL, the Court passed the Directive on the basis of a letter written to the Court by a group of law students against tree felling.
General Solicitor Tushar Mehta told the bench that no trees in the Aarey Colony will be further cut. He told the court that the people who were arrested for protesting against Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) action were released. "In case those are still not released shall be released immediately," Mehta assured the court.
The court also asked Mehta to include the Ministry of Forest and Environment as a party in the matter.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde was representing the group of law students' who sent a letter to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, prompting him to set up a special bench to hear the matter.
Environment activists were represented by senior advocate Gopal Shankarnarayan.
During the course of hearing, Justice Arun Mishra asked whether or not the Aarey Colony was the eco-sensitive zone. To which, advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan said, "Wider issues relating to Aarey being a forest or not has been pending before the Supreme Court in a 2018 matter."
He also apprised the court that a matter is also pending in National Green Tribunal as to whether Aarey is an eco-sensitive zone or not. "As the matter is pending the authorities should have not gone ahead with the felling of trees," Sankaranarayan submitted.
On Sunday, the court received a letter by the students' group against the axing of trees in the Aarey forest, decided to pursue it as public interest litigation (PIL) and constituted a "special bench" to hear the matter.
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) started axing the trees on Friday night after the Bombay High Court rejected a bunch of petitions filed by NGOs and activists against the tree felling.
( With inputs from ANI )