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Aarey Forest: A 4 Year Long Battle With Lots Of Twists and Turns

From filling the petitions in 2015 to the recent SC's order, here's the entire timeline of the Aarey case:

Aarey Forest: A 4 Year Long Battle With Lots Of Twists and Turns

The Supreme Court (SC) recently ordered a stay on the felling of the trees in Aarey Colony after over thousands of trees were already cut by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) authorities. Many might be unaware of the fact but the petitioners, Zoru Bathena and Stalin Dayanand along with other environmental activists have been fighting for it since the last 4 years. Here's the entire timeline: 

1) In 2015, Stalin Dayanand led Vanashakti filed an application to declare Aarey as a Forest and an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ). 

2) In 2015, the National Green Tribunal Act (NGT) gave stay on any work inside Aarey. 

3) On December 5, 2016, the Government declared Aarey as ESZ but excluded depot plot from ESZ. 

6) In 2016 itself, Vanashakti filed a challenge for deletion of depot plot from ESZ before NGT. 

7) In 2017, the government changed the land zone use from No Discharge Zones (NDZ) to Depot zone which was further challenged before the High Court. 

8) In 2018, mud filling work started on depot plot. NGT again gave stay on such work. 

9) On October 2018, HC dismissed the case regarding change of land use zone. HC observed that matters regarding Forest and ESZ were pending before NGT, but still passed some observations regarding issues in those case.

Also Read: Save Aarey: Let Hands Work And Not Thumbs

10) Vanshakti filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before SC.

11) On October 18, NGT said they can't hear Vanashakti's plea to declare Aarey as a Forest and directed them to move constitutional court i.e. HC or SC. 

12) Vanashakti re-filed matter in HC, seeking to declare Aarey as a Forest

13) HC observed that Aarey forest matter is pending in SC and kept Vanashakti's Petition on hold

14) In 2019, environmental activist Amrita from Vanashakti moved to SC stating that alternate plots are available and for a direction, that depot should be constructed elsewhere.

SC stated that the government should take decision with regards to this and SC will only look into the issue of whether the decision to have a depot at Aarey is right or wrong. 

15) On August 29, 2019, Tree Authority (TA) took the decision to allow trees to be cut at Aarey followed by Stalin Dayanand and Zoru Bathena challenging this decision before HC. 

17) On September 5, 2019, State notified water policy stating that construction on a flood plain is prohibited (It is Vanashakti's case that Depot is being built on the flood plain of Mithi). 

18) On September 17, 2019, HC took up all 12 Petitions regarding depot at Aarey and chose 4 to hear urgently 

19) The Forest matters, flood plain matter and TA decision were heard in detail by HC. Moreover, HC did not give any stay during this hearing.

Chief Justice (CJ) Pradeep Nandrajog verbally said that government won't cut trees until this matter is heard and decided. According to activists, this verbal stay is not recorded in any order. 

Also Read: Aarey Protest: Supreme Court Says To Not Cut Any More Trees

20) On Friday, October 5 2019, HC pronounced two separate Judgements

i) Regarding Forest and flood plains, HC did not decide the case on merits. They said we need to go before SC, as connected matters were pending there.

ii) Regarding TA's decision HC said TA's decision was correct and dismissed the case. 

21) On the night of Friday, October 5, MMRCL started cutting the trees.

22) On Saturday, October 6 activists moved to HC. Their bench of CJ and J.Dangre were both not available, so a special bench of two other judges was constituted to hear their application.

During the hearing, the advocate for MMRCL accepted that on previous day request for a stay was rejected with a verbal observation by CJ, but he further said that this alternate bench can't go on verbal talk and must go only as per records.

The alternate bench rejected Vanashakti's application for stay.

24) In the meanwhile, Vanashakti approached SC. They were told that SLP has to be filed on Monday, October 7. SC Registrar will check it and if he finds it urgent he will take it to CJI's house. If CJI finds it urgent a decision will be taken at the earliest. 

25) On Sunday, October 6 some law students wrote to CJI regarding Aarey.

CJI took note of their letter and constituted a suo moto case by SC to look into this issue.

CJI constituted a special bench to hear Aarey matter on Monday, October 7 at 10 am. 

26) On Monday, October 7,  SC special bench heard the law students. SC stated that they cant take cognizance of newspaper reports and further asked for documented proofs. The law students had simply written a complaint letter and had no documents.

Vanashakti intervened and sought permission to show documents from their petitions.

The petition copies were not before the court, so they looked at the documents from their Counsel's copy.

27) SC agreed that this issue must be heard and granted a status quo order and directed matter to be heard by Forest Bench of SC on Monday, October 14. The government asked to extend the date to October 21. 

28) SC also directed that all fresh matters be listed for hearing together on the same day i.e. October 21. 

The event's unfolding on October 21 is awaited. 

Also Read: Save Aarey: SC A Ray Of Hope For Activists As Bombay HC Dismisses All Petitions Opposing Metro 3 Carshed In Aarey

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