New Delhi: Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (MMRCL) on Friday told the Supreme Court that no tree cutting has been carried out in Aarey forest in Mumbai, rather some weeds and branches were removed.

Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh, representing the petitioners, contended before a bench headed by Justice U.U. Lalit that tree cutting has been resumed in the Aarey forest region for the metro car shed project, despite the status quo orders. The bench, also comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Aniruddha Bose, noted that matter needs to be heard in detail. "What we will do is, we will order the status quo," noted the bench.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing MMRCL, submitted that no tree cutting was going on in the area, and after the status quo order was passed by the top court in 2019, no tree was cut. He added that there were bushes, weeds, and shrubs, which have grown in the area, and they were being removed by the concerned authority. Mehta emphasized that only trimming of certain branches were carried out citing the affidavit filed by MMRCL in the matter.

Mehta said, "If public interest litigations are filed with misleading allegations, it will leave a bad taste." The bench replied that there are benefits of having PILs. During the hearing, justice Lalit pointed out that he was an amicus curiae in the TN Godavarman Thirumalpad case and asked if there was any conflict of interest in his hearing of the matter. Mehta said he does not see any conflict.

Justice Lalit said, "Can't hear this Aarey matter. I have not heard any forest matter for the past eight years (as SC judge)..."

The bench said that in view of this stand taken by the MMRCL, there is no requirement for any interim order to be passed in the matter, and took on record MMRCL response that no trees have been cut since the top court's status quo order in 2019. The matter is scheduled for further hearing next week.

The apex court had taken suo motu cognisance of the protests against the cutting of trees in the Aarey car shed plot in 2019. It had ordered status quo on October 7, 2019, after Mehta gave an undertaking that no fresh felling of trees would be done till the next date of hearing. The status quo order had been extended from time to time.—IANS



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