The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Mumbai metro rail authorities not to carry out any work in Aarey forest till the next hearing on a plea seeking to stop felling of trees in the area, Live Law reported.

The matter will next be heard on August 30.

A three-judge bench led by Justice UU Lalit was hearing a batch of applications filed by activists and residents, alleging that the authorities have resumed cutting trees in the Aarey forest, despite a status quo order issued in October 2019.

At a previous hearing of the matter on August 5, the metro authorities had submitted that no trees have been cut in the area, and only some weeds and bushes were cleared for vehicles to pass through.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the metro rail authorities reiterated that they would abide by an undertaking submitted to the court saying that no trees will be cut, Live Law reported.

The matter so far

The construction of the Metro-3 car shed in Aarey Colony is a long-pending contentious matter.

In October 2019, the Supreme Court had ordered a status quo on the project after a group of law students wrote to the Ranjan Gogoi, who was then the chief justice of India, asking him to intervene and stop the cutting of trees in what is considered the last remaining green lung of Mumbai.

In November 2019, the Maharashtra government, led by Uddhav Thackeray, had stopped work on the Aarey car shed. On October 11, 2020, Thackeray had announced that 800 acres of land in the Aarey Colony would be declared a reserve forest and that the car shed for the metro project in the area would be relocated to Kanjurmarg.

However, after Eknath Shinde took over as the new chief minister of Maharashtra in July, heoverturned Thackeray’s decision to shift the Metro-3 car shed out of the Aarey Colony.

On July 21, the state urban development department issued a letter to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited to complete the shed work at the earliest.

The current petition

At the hearing on August 5, Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh, representing the petitioners, told the Supreme Court that the authorities have started clearing the forest area, disregarding the proposal to move the car shed to Kanjurmarg.

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited, had claimed that photographs submitted by the petitioners to the court to back their plea, did not show Aarey Colony.

On Wednesday, the petitioners requested the court to grant more time to collate documents related to their petition, according to Live Law.