The Supreme Court has received a petition to review a December 8 decision giving the go-ahead to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the Centre to acquire land for the construction of the 277.3-km-long Chennai-Krishnagiri-Salem national highway project worth over ₹10,000 crore.
The top court had set aside the Madras High Court’s apprehensions about the environmental harm the project would cause.
The original petitioner in the High Court and Tamil Nadu resident, Yuvaraj S., said projects meant to be for “public purpose” should give maximum benefit to the largest number of people. This project does not meet that criterion set forth by the Supreme Court itself in past judgments.
The review petition said a mere decision to form a greenfield road/highway/national highway taken in a committee meeting cannot claim to be a “policy decision” made in public interest when the decision ultimately violates the law. The petition said the highway project was in fact a violation of the larger policy of the Bharatmala Pariyojna project.
The review petition said the government authorities acted beyond their powers by not obtaining the Ministry of Finance-Department of Expenditure (DOE)-prescribed appraisal by the Public Investment Board for projects that cost over ₹500 crore. The authorities also did not obtain the Ministry of Finance-Department of Economic Affairs (DoEA)-prescribed appraisal from the Public-Private Partnership-Appraisal Committee for projects with a civil construction cost of more than ₹1,000 crore. Mr. Yuvaraj also claimed that the approval from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs and the Comptroller and Auditor General’s audit was not completed.
The eight-lane highway (NH179A and NH179B) is part of the first phase of the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojna’ project, which stretches across 24,800 km and has an estimated outlay of ₹5.35 lakh crore. The project aims at improving the efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructural gaps. The highway intends to cut travel time between Chennai and Salem by half.
“By its very nomenclature, a national highway is to link the entire country and provide access to all in every remote corner of the country for interaction and to promote commerce and trade, employment and education, including health-related services,” the Supreme Court had said in its December 2020 judgment.
The project had faced opposition from locals, including farmers, over fears of losing their land, besides environmentalists who were against the felling of trees.
Source: Read Full Article