The Supreme Court Monday refused to grant an interim stay against the Madras High Court’s order which rejected the central government’s land acquisition notification for the Chennai-Salem 8-Lane highway project.
A vacation bench comprising of Justices Indu Malhotra and MR Shah also issued a notice to the respondents and sought their response vis a vis the special leave petition filed by the Centre, according to Bar and Bench.
The Centre is of the opinion that Madras HC’s quashing of the land acquisition notification is in “direct derogation” of public policy and would stall the proposed project.
The 277.300 km long, 8-lane highway project was proposed to connect Salem to Chennai. The highway passed through Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts, an agrarian region comprising reserved forest areas and several industrial zones. A feasibility study for the project pegged the total cost at Rs 9,106 crores and a tentative cost for rehabilitation and resettlement had been worked out to Rs 415 crores.
While quashing the land acquisition notification, the Madras HC noted that farmers in the five districts complained that they were not consulted. They also feared that the project would destroy the most productive farmlands in Kancheepuram and Tiruvannamalai districts. The court order also raised questions about a vulnerable reserve forest stretch near the project alignment.
The land acquisition notification was alleged to have been issued despite environmental clearances, forest clearances, and final approval by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) remained pending.
A special division bench of Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice Bhavani Subbaroyan had quashed the notification on the grounds that the project will have a huge impact on the environment and water bodies in the area.