Chennai-Salem 8-Lane Highway: Madras HC order opposed to public policy, Centre contends

Chennai-Salem 8-Lane Highway: Madras HC order opposed to public policy, Centre contends

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today declined to grant an interim stay against the Madras High Court order that had quashed the land acquisition notification for the construction of the Chennai-Salem 8-lane highway.

The Vacation Bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and MR Shah issued notice to the respondents, seeking their response in the special leave petition filed by the Centre.

It is contended by petitioner, which is a statutory body functioning under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), that the decision of the Madras High Court is in “direct derogation” of public policy and that it will effectively stall the proposed ambitious project.

The Chennai-Salem 8-lane project is a part of the Bharatmala Pariyojana project, which was conceptualized by the Centre for enabling improvement in logistics.

As part of the project, in May last year, the Central government had authorised the issuance of a notification to acquire land to develop a highway spanning about 276 kilometres connecting Chennai and Salem.

The notification was alleged to have been issued even as environmental clearances, forest clearances, and final approval by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) were pending. The notification issued under Section 3A(1) of the National Highway Act, 1956 was therefore challenged by affected landowners as well as public interest litigants before the Madras High Court.

In April this year, the a Special Division Bench of the Madras High Court quashed the notification. The High Court found merit in the petitioners’ contention that the environmental clearances ought to have been obtained before initiating the land acquisition. It also opined that the project feasibility report justifying the highway project deserved to be scrapped.

Aggrieved by the same, the petitioner body has now approached the Supreme Court. The Court, while issuing notice to the respondents, fixed the date of hearing of the case in the first week of July.

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