CHENNAI:A division bench of the Madras High Court has directed the government and its officials not to precipitate the matter of acquisition of land for the eight-lane Chennai-Salem Green Corridor Project. No action shall be initiated by the Forest department pursuant to the notification issued under Sec. 3A(1) of the National Highways Act until further orders, the bench of Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan said.
“We have made a very pointed observation in several of our earlier orders that nothing should be precipitated by the State government or its officials,” the bench noted and directed the government pleader to get appropriate instructions in the matter and issue necessary instructions to the officers, more particularly those at the field-level, not to precipitate the problem further, which will be viewed seriously by the court.
The judges were passing further interim orders on a batch of writ petitions from the land owners, challenging the acquisition of their land, on Tuesday.
Earlier, the bench was told that the proposed project would pass through the reserved forest only to an extent of 7.445 km, that is, 32.05 hectares. The project proponent has to obtain necessary clearance by filing applications online. So far, the proponent has not filed any application under the Forest Conservation Act. In the event of an application being made through proper channel, it will be processed by the District Forest Officer concerned and thereafter it will be forwarded to the Nodal Officer, then to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and then to the Central Empowered Committee constituted by the Supreme Court.
If the committee approves the decision, a report will be submitted to the Supreme Court. In the event of any objection or rejection, it is for the proponent to approach the Supreme Court and obtain orders.When the judges queried on the approximate time that would be taken for obtaining such clearance, the Advocate-General submitted that if everything goes well, it may take about eight months.
Senior counsel N L Rajah produced a copy of an e-mail received by K Balu, counsel for one of the petitioners, and submitted that it appeared to be part of a direction issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It stated that considering the various representations by locals against land acquisition and writ petitions filed in the court, the EAC recommends to carry out a comprehensive socio-economic assessment with an emphasis on impact of ongoing land acquisition on the local people living around the proposed alignment from any reputed institution of the Union government.The bench opined that the authenticity of this communication should be verified.