Mumbai: Police imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Aarey Colony and surrounding areas on Saturday, banning unlawful assembly, following strong protests by activists against the felling of trees in the green zone for a Metro car shed, an official said. Police have cordoned off the area and people are not allowed to enter the locality.
Hundreds of people gathered at the site of the proposed car shed after they were informed that trees were being axed by authorities late Friday night.
Police have booked 38 protesters under various sections of the IPC since late Friday night, the official said. Another official said over 60 people protesting against the felling of trees have been detained.
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) started hacking trees late Friday night to make way for the car shed, hours after the Bombay High Court dismissed four pleas filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision to allow felling of trees in the prime green lung of the city.
As the MMRCL started cutting trees, hundreds of green activists held protests and tried to stop the action.
"We have imposed section 144 of the CrPC in Aarey Colony, Goregaon check post and surrounding areas," the Mumbai police spokesperson said.
As of now, at least 38 protesters have been booked under section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 143 (unlawful assembly) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), he said.
On Friday night, police started dispersing the crowd and had to forcibly remove the protesters, the official said. When the situation worsened, police started taking protesters into custody.
On Friday, hours after the Bombay High Court dismissed petitions opposing tree-felling in Aarey Colony in north Mumbai, a prime green lung of the city, for Metro work, activists alleged that authorities have started hacking trees.
Of over 2,600 trees which are to be felled, 200 had been cut by Friday night, activists alleged.
Videos of tree-felling went viral on social media, though it could not be confirmed from Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation officials if indeed tree cutting for the planned metro car shed in Aarey had begun.
But the site of the proposed car shed saw heavy police deployment as hundreds of people gathered there late Friday night to stop trees from being hacked.
Several tweets lambasted the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra as well as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation over the issue.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Preeti Menon Sharma said tree cutting was a violation of the poll code in force for the October 21 Assembly elections.