New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government to not cut any more trees at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony for a car shed of the Mumbai Metro, a day after Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, on Sunday, constituted a special two-judge bench to take suo moto cognisance of the case, after a group of students wrote to him, urging him to intervene in the case.

The apex court also took an undertaking by the Maharashtra government that no more trees will be cut. Solicitor General (S-G) Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Maharashtra government, assured the top court that henceforth no more trees will cut and informed it that whatever was required, has already been cut.

It also asked the Mumbai Police to release all those who were arrested for protesting against the axing of trees, if not released yet. 29 protesters, who were arrested by the police, were granted bail by a sessions court on Sunday.

In the hearing, the petitioners argued that Aarey forest was deemed as ‘unclassified forest’ by state govt and felling of trees is illegal, on which the SC told the Maharashtra government that ‘if it can’t be done legally, it can’t be done by you.’ The top court also observed that the area was ‘some kind of forest at some time.’ On the state government’s claims that it had planted 24,000 seeds to replace the trees that have been axed, the court asked the government to produce a compulsory afforestation report.

The SC finally ordered that status quo be maintained in the case and fixed October 21 as the next date for hearing