SC receives a plea for reviewing its verdict on a land acquisition in the Chennai-Salem eight lane project In response to the plea in the Supreme Court of India (SC) seeking review of its judgment in the eight-lane Greenfield project, the Court has upheld the notification for acquisition of land for the same Mr. Yuvraj Sondararajan (petitioner) filed a review petition before the SC...
Access the exclusive LEGAL ERAStories,Editorial and Expert Opinion
SC receives a plea for reviewing its verdict on a land acquisition in the Chennai-Salem eight lane project
In response to the plea in the Supreme Court of India (SC) seeking review of its judgment in the eight-lane Greenfield project, the Court has upheld the notification for acquisition of land for the same
Mr. Yuvraj Sondararajan (petitioner) filed a review petition before the SC wherein he has contended that the SC's verdict delivered on 8 December 2020 on the Chennai-Salem project has errors apparent on the face of the record and it would result in a gross miscarriage of justice.
The petitioner stated that the review application that is filed before the SC is based on the contention that the SC did not have the occasion to consider that law laid down for judicial review of purported "Public Policy" when there is a violation of a larger policy.
The dispute started over an eight-lane Greenfield project that aimed to reduce travel time between Chennai and Salem. However, the said project has been facing opposition from certain local civilians that include farmers, as they have fears of losing their land, and they believed that it would also harm the environment. The project runs through reserve forests and water bodies.
The said project was challenged before the High Court of Madras (HC) wherein a batch of petitions were filed by around 35 landowners and Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader Ramadoss. They had challenged the land acquisition proceedings. The HC had made it clear that grant of prior environmental clearance would undoubtedly require a detailed study of the area and before that; a public hearing was needed to be conducted.
The HC also held that the project report of the consultant was 'unsatisfactory' and asked it to be scrapped. It stated that a detailed study is needed for understanding the impact on the forest lands, water bodies, wildlife, flora, and fauna cannot be assessed. It stated that environmental clearance was mandatory since the project would harm the environment.
The pleas were filed against the HC's judgment that was delivered on 8 April 2019. In the said verdict the HC held that the notifications issued under Section 3A(1) of the National Highways Act (Act) for the acquisition of lands for construction as "illegal and bad in law" of the new highway that was a part of the larger 'Bharatmala Pariyojna – Phase I5' project.
The appeal was filed before the SC by the Centre and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and few land owners and others including PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss, against the judgment of the HC. The matter was listed before a bench of Justices A. M. Khanwilkar, B.R. Gavai, and Krishna Murari.
The SC had partly allowed the appeals of the Centre and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI)by quashing the notification based on the acquisition of land for the highway project and it dismissed the appeal of landowners against the acquisition of their land for the project.
The core issue in this review petition was whether prior environmental clearance was necessary before acquiring lands for the highway project.
The Supreme Court observed that it is not necessary for the Central Government or the NHAI to apply for prior environmental clearances at the planning stage as also until the stage of issuing notification under Section 3A of the National Highways Act.
According to the Top Court, prior environmental clearance is required to be taken before commencement of the 'actual construction or building work' of the national highway by the NHAI.
The SC in its verdict stated, "The impugned judgment and order is modified. The challenge to impugned notifications under Sections 2(2) and 3A of the Act, respectively, is negative. The Central Government and/or NHAI may proceed further in the matter by law for acquisition of notified lands for the construction of a national highway for the proposed section/stretch."
The court concluded that as per 2006 EIA notification, the environmental/forest clearance is required to be obtained by the executing agency in terms of this notification before commencing the actual work or executing the proposed work/project.