A meeting of Supreme Court-appointed high-powered committee (HPC) on Char Dharma road project was held in Dehradun Saturday without its chairperson Ravi Chopra. Chopra skipped the meeting calling it “unauthorised” and an attempt to undermine the autonomy of the HPC. He said the meeting was not called on his directive.
Chopra said the meeting was called by member secretary Ravinath Raman of the committee on the directive of Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand Om Prakash who is not member of the committee. Speaking to The Sunday Express, Chopra said that member secretary had told him that he has been asked by the Chief Secretary to call a meeting.
Ravinath Raman was not available to comment despite repeated attempts.
“The government has no authority to call the meeting. Chief Secretary cannot direct the member secretary to do so. And it is definitely an attempt to undermine the autonomy of the HPC which is answerable only to the Supreme Court,” he said adding that he was keen to hold a quick meeting but because of his prior commitments he had insisted to call the meeting after October 26.
“The first point of the agenda was about confirmation of minutes of previous meeting held in June. The minutes of that meeting were already confirmed and submitted in the Supreme Court with a final report,” Chopra said. He added, “Meeting held today. I did not attend it. I have further no communication about the meeting.”
According to sources, a few other members too skipped the meeting in solidarity with the HPC chairman. Chopra said had also written to Raman and Chief Secretary asking to withdraw the notice of meeting.
In the letter to Raman on October 16, Chopra had stated, “As a Member Secretary, you are accountable for the HPC which is an independent body created by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and answerable to the Hon’ble Court only. You have no authority to impose any other’s directions for its functioning. As you have mentioned in your notice that you are calling this meeting ‘as per the directions of the Chief Secretary’ is highly objectionable and a direct infringement in the functioning of the HPC and the Order dated of 08.08.2019 by which it has been constituted.”
Last year, the apex court had formed the HPC to determine the ecological impact of the Char Dham road project.
In the letter to Chief Secretary, Chopra said, “…this suppression of the HPC by your directing the newly appointed Member Secretary, without even first discussing your concerns with me, is totally arbitrary and can not be justified in any way. It virtually amounts to violation of the Supreme Court order.”
Chopra had also asked Chief Secretary to withdraw his direction and respect the autonomy and authority of the HPC created by a judicial order of the Supreme Court.
Chopra in a letter to Environment Secretary on August 13 had pointed out “brazen” violation of forest and wildlife laws by the Char Dham Pariyojana. He had written that the project has caused “incalculable and long-term damage to the Himalayan ecology” by felling trees, cutting hills and dumping muck (excavated material) without valid permission on various stretches.