The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Thursday slammed those who were opposed to the widening of National Highway 7, saying that if development of the country is stopped, then “judicial terrorism is necessary”.
Bringing forward the hearing in the matter, which was earlier slated for September 16, Justice Bhushan Gavai, while referring to wildlife activists, asked “if development can be stalled by a few white collared environmentalists”.
The matter has got stuck with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and high court sparring on the Maharashtra Forest Department allowing tree felling along the 37-km stretch between Mansar in Nagpur district and Khawasa in Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh that cuts through what is regarded as India’s most vital wildlife and tiger corridor that connects Kanha to Pench tiger reserves.
The NH-7 stretch passes through the eco-sensitive zone of Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) on both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh sides and the proposed four-laning will entail cutting of thousands of trees.
The NGT, which had ordered stay on allowance to fell trees, last week issued show-cause to Forest Department and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for continuing to fell trees despite its order.
The Forest Department and NHAI appealed to Justice Gavai to stay the NGT show-cause order.
Gavai refrained from giving any ruling on the matter as the HC has no jurisdiction vis-à-vis the ruling in the matter being heard at Delhi NGT. Justice Gavai then granted one day’s time and posted the matter for hearing again on September 11.
Gavai has been constantly asserting the superiority of HC over NGT, saying, “HC is a constitutional body while NGT is a statutory body.” He iterated the same on Thursday.
He also said that the HC is monitoring the implementation of multiple NH widenings and whether NGT will stay all of them.
Widening of National highways if stopped will have an adverse impact on development of rural areas, he added, while mentioning that development of such areas is part of the Directive Principle of the constitution. He wondered whether people will travel by hopping flights between small towns such as Rukhad and Mansar in the absence of National Highways.