Over thousand trees have been cut at Mumbai's Aarey Colony so far to clear space for a car shed of a metro project, despite a massive protest by green activists against the move. The environmentalists approached the Bombay High Court for the tree cutting to be stopped, but just like Friday, the court refused to intervene.
The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed four petitions against the car shed plan, saying the matter was pending before the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal.
"The greens (environmentalists) fail in the instant petition because they have lost touch with the procedure to be followed as per law. The clock cannot be put back. We do not make any comments thereon as the petitioner has to now swim or sink before the Supreme Court... The issue is pending before the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal. Hence, we are dismissing the petition on the principle of commonality and not on merits," a bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre said on Friday.
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation's plan to build a car shed will entail cutting of over 2,600 trees at Aarey Colony, which houses over 5 lakh trees.
After the court's Friday order, a video had surfaced on social media that showed a tree being cut. Activists claim that it was done illegally, and due procedure was not followed before making the move. The charge was denied by the Mumbai Metro.
Twenty-nine activists, who were protesting against the cutting of trees, have been arrested since Friday night. They have been sent to judicial custody.
On Saturday, an application was moved by environmentalists seeking stay on the cutting of trees until the Supreme Court announces its judgement.
The application was taken up for urgent hearing by Justices SC Dharmadhikari and AK Menon in their chamber in the high court, news agency PTI reported.
Advocate Akshay Shinde, appearing for the Mumbai Metro, told the judges that they initiated action only after the court dismissed the petitions on Friday.
The bench, after hearing brief arguments, said it would not interfere with the Friday's order, PTI reported.
The issue has snowballed into a full-blown political controversy, with the Shiv Sena -- the ruling BJP's alliance partner-- siding with green activists.
"The upcoming government will be our government, and once our government comes into power again, we will deal with the murderers of Aarey Forest in the best possible," Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray was quoted by news agency ANI as saying.
With inputs from ANI, PTI