New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday prohibited cutting of any more trees in Mumbai's Aarey colony and directed the Maharashtra government to maintain status quo till October 21, the next date of hearing.

The Supreme Court in its order said that no more trees should be cut in the colony till that date to facilitate the construction of a car shed for Mumbai Metro. The top court also recorded an undertaking by the Devendra Fadnavis government assuring the same. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra further ordered the police to release all activists, who were detained till date for their protest preventing the axing of trees. It has been flash point between environmentalists, residents on one side and proponents of infrastructural development on the other side.

While several Bollywood stars have echoed concerns, actors Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar have come out in support of the government backing the metro project. Uddhav Thackeray, the chief of the BJP's coalition partner Shiv Sena, and his son, Aaditya Thackeray have thrown their weight behind the activists, who have been fighting for the last two years. The two-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan was constituted after a group of law students wrote to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi seeking the top court's intervention in the matter and the cutting of trees to be suspended immediately.

This comes a day after the Bombay High Court rejected an application moved by environmentalists seeking a stay on the cutting of trees. Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon which has more than five lakh trees, together with Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is known as the green lungs of Mumbai. The protests against cutting of trees also sparked Twitter campaigns and online 'petitions' such as #ArreyChipko #SaveAarey. (IANS)

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