A Dark Day for Mumbai: Section 144 is imposed as the Aarey forest is felled
Yesterday, the Bombay High Court decided not to intervene in the felling of over 2600 trees in the Aarey Colony for the construction of a Metro Car Depot. Protestors gathered as the Mumbai Municipal Corporation began felling trees in the small hours of the night, and as the mass of people grew, over 100 protestors were detained as more trees were hacked.By 9.30 AM this morning, Section 144 had been imposed in the area.
In a heavy handed response to environmental concerns and protests, section 144 has been imposed in the Aarey Colony. Protestors gathered as the Mumbai Municipal Corporation began felling trees in the small hours of the night, and as the mass of people grew, over 100 protestors were detained as more trees were hacked.
Yesterday, the Bombay High Court decided not to intervene in the felling of over 2600 trees in the Aarey Colony for the construction of a Metro Car Depot. Pointing out that the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and the NGT, the Court said that the petition before it failed on the basis of not following due process.
The High Court refused to declare it a forest, and cancelled 5 petitions against the construction.
"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.
Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon, is known as the green lung of the metropolis. It has more than five lakh trees, and for the past two years, environmentalists have been protesting moves by the Mumbai Metro to clear the area.
As per the latest reports, of the 2600 trees that are to be felled, 200 have already been cut on Friday night, under the cover of dark. Hundreds of people gathered last night to stop the trees from being cut. In response, there was heavy police deployment, and road barricades in the area.
As the Mumbai Municipal Corporation began felling the trees, police began removing protestors from the site. The video below shows them shouting slogans.
#WATCH: People gathered in protest at #AareyForest against the felling of trees there, earlier tonight. They were later removed from spot by police. Bombay HC has dismissed all petitions against BMC decision which allowed felling of more than 2700 trees there, for metro car shed. pic.twitter.com/saT4MaHWsq— ANI (@ANI) October 4, 2019
By 9.30 AM this morning, Section 144 had been imposed in the area. This provision of the Criminal Procedure Code bans unlawful assembly of four or more people in an area where it is imposed. Usually used where there is an apprehension of riots, it is a blanket imposition that comes with heavy restrictions.
So far, over 20 people have been arrested under section 353 of the IPC (the crime of committing assault or using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging duty), and are to be produced in court today.
The matter of the Aarey green patch is set to be heard by the NGT on October 10. The haste shown by the Mumbai Metro Authorities seems to be a race to clear the forest before the NGT can take the case up.
In yesterday’s order, the Court had said that this was was an instance of environmentalists fighting a system that is much larger than they can contend with. The judgement read, "Repeatedly, Davids (environmentalist) take on industrial Goliaths. Relationship with nature and love for environment alone is true and all other relationships are unreal and temporary is their belief. Their hearts are a temple of devotion to flora and fauna. In the instant case, the Davids row their boat with faith, courage and devotion in the storm of development; but directionless.”