The Bombay High Court on Saturday refused to stop the authorities’ move to cut trees in the Mumbai’s Aarey Colony area, and dismissed a petition by the environmental activists, PTI reported.

The activists sought the stay on the cutting of the trees so that they can approach the Supreme Court. They argued that by the time they file an appeal on Monday, all the trees would have been cut.

At least 29 people were arrested after they attempted to stop authorities from cutting trees, and police have forbidden unlawful assembly at and around Aarey under provisions of the Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd officials started razing the trees in the cover of darkness on Friday night to make way for a car shed. On Friday, the Bombay High Court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision to allow the cutting of 2,646 trees.

The activists application was taken up for urgent hearing by Justices SC Dharmadhikari and AK Menon. Advocate Akshay Shinde, appearing for the MMRCL, told the judges that they initiated action of cutting trees only after the court dismissed the petitions challenging the approval granted by the Tree Authority. He said the court should take into consideration the huge investment in the metro project.

The court after hearing the brief arguments said it would not interfere with the Friday’s order as it would contravene its own verdict, The Times of India reported. “Once all the substantive proceedings are dismissed, it would not be proper to pass any restraint order and mercy on a praecipe,” the court said.

Prakash Javadekar supports tree cutting

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Saturday supported authorities’ move to cut trees in the Mumbai’s Aarey Colony area, and said it was similar to what was done in Delhi for the construction of the metro, PTI reported.

In a press conference in Lucknow, Javadekar said that as per the Bombay High Court ruling Aarey Colony is not a forest area.“There was a need to fell 20 to 25 trees for setting up the first metro station in Delhi and then also people had similarly opposed it,” Javadekar said. “But for each tree that was cut, five saplings were planted.”

The minister claimed the forest cover in the national Capital has increased and simultaneously, public transport system has also improved. “This is the mantra of ‘vikas bhi, paryavaran ki suraksha bhi’ [development with environment protection],” the BJP leader said.

“But metro has planted 5 trees for every single tree that it has taken down,” he said, according to ANI. “Now, there are 271 stations. Forest undercover area has increased in Delhi. 30 lakh people are using the metro as public transport.”

Environment activists and protestors have criticised the authorities, and claimed that almost 200 trees have been cut so far. They alleged the Mumbai metro corporation wanted to finish the job before October 10, when the matter comes next before the National Green Tribunal.

Meanwhile, the Mumbai Metro Managing Director Ashwini Bhide dismissed reports that the trees were being cut illegally. Activists had claimed that an order to do so needed to be uploaded by a government website 15 days in advance.

“A new false propaganda is in the air that 15 days’ notice is required after tree authority order getting uploaded on website,” Bhide said on Twitter. “This is absolutely baseless. Tree Authority order is issued on 13th Sept 19. 15 days r [are] over on 28th Sept. Action awaited till HC verdict was out.”

She claimed that even after the Bombay High Court verdict “some people consider themselves to be superior” to the judiciary. “If you lose a battle in court, better to accept it honourably than to take it to street,” she added.

Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.