Months after the Madras High Court quashed land acquisition proceedings for the Chennai-Salem eight-lane expressway, the central government has sought relief from the Supreme Court. The Hindu reports that the Union government requested the apex court to pass an order setting aside the ç ruling.
In April, the lower court had slammed the Rs 10,000 crore project, its pre-feasibility report and the unconvincing arguments put forth by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
According to the newspaper, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared before a Bench led by Justice NV Ramana on Monday and said that 'protests for environmental clearance at this point of the project was baseless' since the government must be allowed to acquire land and then apply for environmental clearance.
In June, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Indu Malhotra had refused to grant interim relief to the NHAI on the Madras High Court's verdict. Stating that the case warranted further investigation, the Supreme Court had reportedly pointed out that there were errors in the land acquisition process.
Apart from quashing the land acquisition proceedings, in July, the Madras High Court also cancelled Tamil Nadu's exemptions from the Land Acquisition Act. The exemptions had previously enabled the state government to acquire land for various developmental projects in the state.
The proposed Rs 10,000 crore highway to cut down travel time between Chennai and Salem had met with massive protests across the state beginning in May last year. The highways project, initiated under the Bharatmala Pariyojana scheme, proposed to add to the three already existing routes between the two districts. However, with several acres of agricultural land being affected, the project was opposed by farmers, activists and opposition parties. Following petitions from farmers as well as PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss, the Madras High Court held that the benefits of the project were 'illusory'.
Following this, the NHAI had appealed to the apex court on the basis that the stalling of the project would set a dangerous precedent for other infrastructure and development projects across the country. It also argued that the lower court had been emotionally swayed by the petitioners and that it had a 'good case on merits'.
The apex court has agreed to hear the matter on July 31.