The Madras High Court said on Wednesday that while land acquisition is taking place for the Chennai-Salem 8 lane expressway, police officials should not use force.
Condemning reports on the use of force by police officials, the Madras High Court Bench comprising Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Bhavani Subbarayan asked why the Tamil Nadu government was acting in haste to acquire land.
The proposed expressway between Chennai and Salem has caused a furore against the government in Tamil Nadu. With farmers and residents in the villages along the highway protesting against the loss of their agricultural land, the government has cracked down on those who have been vocal against the project, arresting them under multiple charges from ‘inflammatory’ speeches to provocation.
The Justices also flayed the government, observing that awareness campaigns regarding the project should have been conducted prior to initiating the process of land acquisition.
The Court also remarked that such stringent action would be appreciated if the police department were to crack down on those who put up illegal banners and those who illegally occupy government lands.
Stating that such opposition is commonplace for projects, the Court also sought a detailed response on the issue from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways by August 2.
Officially titled ‘Chennai-Salem Greenfield Corridor’, the 277.30 km highway involves the development of a number of state and national highways between the two districts.
On July 6, the Madras High Court refused to grant an interim stay on land acquisition for the project while hearing a petition filed by Krishnamoorthy, a landowner from Dharmapuri. The petitioner had claimed that district revenue authorities were undertaking land acquisition activities without assessing the environmental impact and that it was against the rules.
Another PIL related to the case contended that there are sufficient roads from Salem to Chennai via Krishnagiri and Ulundurpet, and an airport in Salem, which would facilitate movement between the two cities and hence there was no need for the green corridor now.
The petition also claimed that the impact on forests and environment was not studied and that those who oppose the project are being intimidated and land was being acquired illegally.