The project Hubbali-Ankola Rail Line has faced stiff opposition for environmental reasons.

Western GhatsFile image
news Court Tuesday, July 14, 2020 - 13:38

In a boost for conservationists working to protect the Western Ghats, the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday extended the interim stay order imposed on the controversial Hubballi-Ankola railway line project. 

The initial stay was ordered by the High Court by a bench led by Chief Justice AS Oka on June 18 while hearing a petition filed by Bengaluru-based urban conservationist Vijay Nishanth. There are other petitions filed against the project as well.

The bench also denied the state government plea seeking a fixed date for the case. The state government had sought a date of next hearing citing this as an "urgent matter".

Speaking with TNM, Sreeja Chakraborty, the advocate appearing for the petitioner, said, "Rule Nisi has been issued against the state. The state submitted that the project is urgent, yet the state and the central government chose not to appear before the Hon'ble High Court, which means there is no next date of hearing. Rule nisi means rule or order upon condition that is to become absolute unless cause is shown to the contrary.”

This is not the first litigation process initiated to scrap the project that has been in and out of the backburner for over two decades and was previously opposed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority among other authorities when the matter was under scrutiny of the apex court.

The matter had again come to life when on March 20 a few members of the State Wildlife Board cleared the project. This U-turn came days after a unanimous decision on March 9 by the State Wildlife Board headed by the Chief Minister to not go ahead with the Hubballi-Ankola railway line project. 

The decision by the HC means that the state government cannot proceed with any works related to the 168-kilometre-long railway line proposed to run from Dharwad district to Uttara Kannada, cutting across close to 600 hectares of fragile ecosystem including forests within the Kali Tiger Reserve and the Bedthi Conservation Reserve.

Sreeja said, “The Hubli-Ankola Railway line project is shelved for an unforeseeable future. The decision of the State Wildlife Board which is now stayed primarily because the Board while approving the project on 20th March was sitting on appeal of their own decision of 9th March, 2020, which is legally incorrect. That's why there cannot be any re-meeting on Hubli-Ankola by the State Board. The final decision of the Board was conclusively taken on 9th March, 2020 and it was to reject it. There is no provision under the law for the state board to conduct any re-meeting. That's the principle ground on which the 20th March meeting decision is stayed.”

 The project has seen stiff opposition  from local residents, activists and experts on environmental grounds as it will require cutting of 600 hectares of forests including within the Kali Tiger Reserve and the Bedthi Conservation Reserve.

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