Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Monday chose to maintain silence over the Aarey forest row after the Supreme Court in its special hearing earlier today halted the hacking of trees till October 21.

“Supreme Court has given a decision on it, so I will not comment on the matter,” Javadekar told reporters after the apex court order.

Javadekar said the policy on afforestation is to plant five trees for every tree cut. He said the policy has yielded results as India’s green cover has increased by 15,000 sq kms.

The Supreme Court earlier today asked the Maharashtra government to not cut more trees in the metro-rail project site in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony.

The court ordered that status quo should be maintained regarding the felling of trees at Aarey Colony till the next date of hearing on October 21.

The apex court had held a special hearing over the Maharashtra government’s decision to fell over 2700 trees in Aarey Colony to build a metro car shed.

The apex court took the decision based on a letter written to Chief Justice of India on Sunday by a group of students with regard to “felling of trees in Aarey forest”, registering it as a Public Interest Litigation.

Through the letter, the students requested the CJI to take “cognizance of the Aarey matter for a stay on tree-axing undertaken by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai with Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation and Mumbai Police”.

The court further asked the state government to include the Union Environment Ministry as a party in the case.

Protests were held late Friday night and continued during the wee hours of Saturday as authorities began cutting down trees at Aarey Colony to build an upcoming metro car shed.

The hacking of trees later resumed in the area on Sunday with the imposition of prohibitory orders.

Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) had started hacking trees from Friday to make way for a car shed, hours after the Bombay High Court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision to allow felling of over 2,700 trees in the prime green lung of the city.

Amid strong opposition from green activists, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had on Saturday cited the Bombay HC order to defend the Mumbai Metro Corporation’s move to fell trees in Aarey Colony, saying it was “not a forest”.

“Basically the High Court has decided and ruled yesterday that it is not a forest,” Javadekar told reporters here. “You can’t fell anything that is forest.”

Drawing a parallel, the Union Minister said trees had to be cut for Delhi Metro also and it was opposed by activists even then.

Terming the Delhi Metro the best of its kind in the world, he said there was a need to cut 20 to 25 trees to set up the first metro station in Delhi and people had similarly opposed it.

“But for each tree cut, five saplings were planted. All have become trees in 15 years,” he said. “Delhi’s jungle cover has increased and public transport for 30 lakh people was arranged. This is the mantra of ‘vikas bhi, paryavaran ki suraksha bhi’ (sustainable development).”