The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited for seeking permission to cut 177 trees at Aarey Colony despite the court’s earlier order allowing it to remove only 84 trees for constructing a car shed, Live Law reported.

“How can you move for felling anymore trees in excess of 84 trees?” a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala asked. “You’re in contempt of our order. You cannot take this court for a ride or go above the court’s order. We lifted the status quo order specifically for 84 trees.”

The judges observed that it was “improper” on the part of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited to approach the Tree Authority when it knew the correct course of action was to move the Supreme Court.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta apologised and stated that the Mumbai Metro’s intention was not to override the court. He said that more trees need to be cut because of a new survey.

But the Supreme Court directed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited to pay Rs 10 lakh penalty to the chief conservator of forests in the next two weeks.

It, however, did not stay the Tree Authority’s March 15 decision that allowed the felling of 124 trees and transplanting of 53 trees. The judges said that such an action would lead to the public project being brought to a standstill and that is not desirable.

Several residents, environmental activists and students have protested against the felling of trees at the Aarey forest since it is considered the last remaining green lung of Mumbai.

In October 2019, a group of law students had written to Ranjan Gogoi, who was then the chief justice of India, asking him to intervene and stop the cutting of trees at Aarey Colony. The Supreme Court had then ordered a status quo on the metro rail project.

In November 2019, the Maharashtra government, led by Uddhav Thackeray, had stopped work on the 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 2022, his government overturned Thackeray’s decision to shift the car shed out of Aarey Colony.