The Supreme Court on Tuesday indirectly alluded to the recent border skirmishes between India and China while hearing a case relating to the widening of Char Dham roads (Citizens for Green Doon v. Union of India)..A Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud pondered over how much a Constitutional court can interfere on the ground of environmental concerns in matters affecting the defence and security of the nation. "We cannot deny the fact that at such a height, the security of the nation is at stake. Can the highest constitutional court say that we will override the defence needs particularly in the face of recent events (conflicts with China)? Can we say that environment will triumph over the defence of the nation? Or we say that defence concerns be taken care of so that environmental degradation does not take place," he said.He added that the Court is in a predicament because the Central government has cited defence as the reason for the road widening. "We must tell you our predicament in this. If Centre says that they are doing it for tourism, then we understand and we can impose more stringent conditions. But when it is needed to defend the borders, then it is a serious predicament (the) Court has to encounter in cases like these," he remarked..The Court was hearing an application by NGO Citizens for Green Doon challenging the Stage -I forest and wildlife clearance granted for improvement and expansion of roads by felling trees.The Char Dham highway is a 900-kilometre road project that promises to offer all-weather connectivity to four Hindu pilgrimage centres in Uttarakhand. One of the benefits of the project as claimed by the Central government is that it will facilitate rapid deployment and movement of Indian Armed forces along China border.However, according to Central government’s own notification of 2018, the road width cannot exceed 5.5 meters in the hilly terrains like the one through which Char Dham road is proposed. The Supreme Court had by its September 2020 order mandated the government to keep the width of the Char Dham road at 5.5 meters in compliance with the Central government's own 2018 notification regarding the same.The said notification had subsequently been amended in December 2020. The Ministry had also filed an application before the Court seeking permission to construct the road at 10 meter width..Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the Central government, submitted that the Army needs the feeder roads to be of a certain width to transport men and material. "There are seven projects leading to international borders which are needed for Army movements. There is a need for Armed Forces vehicles, rocket launchers etc to travel on these roads and all this was not taken into account. Army was ignored in this matter and Army's needs (must) be presented here before the Court," the AG argued. .Representing the petitioners, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves highlighted the catastrophic impact such development could have on young mountains like the Himalayas. He cited parliamentary expert committee reports to suggest that the Himalayas would not be able to take the road construction. "If the Himalayas are capable to take the developments envisioned, then yes, go ahead. But if reports suggest that Himalayas are not able to take it, then can we? We saw what happened as an aftermath recently," Gonsalves submitted..He reminded the Bench that twenty-four projects were stayed by the Court after taking cognisance of the damages caused by seventeen hydroelectric plants running 'bumper to bumper' in the Himalayas. .The Bench which also comprised Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath took note of the glacier melts and other environmental issues created by rampant development projects but asked whether it can overlook defence needs."Even if there is a whiff of suggestion that environmental concerns must triumph over defence of nation, I must not win this case," responded Gonsalves."There has been 116 major landslides and there has already been 16 landslides during the past monsoon. Every pahadi knows that mountains are being blasted to make roads and mountains can't take it," he added..The hearing will continue tomorrow.