KOCHI: The state government on Monday informed the Kerala High Court that the cases registered against people for having opposed the physical Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for the SilverLine project cannot be withdrawn at this stage. The state made the submission when the court raised a query regarding this. The state government also said all actions have been taken by it under the legitimate expectation that the Detailed Project Report (DPR) would be approved. Then, the court asked what is the purpose of conducting an SIA when there is no proper DPR.
“When the government of Kerala says that the Railway Board has not accepted DPR, what are the authorities going to gain out of the SIA? The government has already spent a lot of money. If the Union government gives permission, go ahead and do it. But what is the point of an SIA when the Government of India makes it clear that they have not yet even considered the DPR,” observed the court.
The court also closed all petitions challenging the orders for the acquisition of land for the SilverLine project as well as for carrying out the SIA survey in view of the submission by the Centre that it had not approved the project’s DPR.
Justice Devan Ramachandran pointed out that the consideration of the validity of the government orders has now become unnecessary as those for the SIA have lapsed and the land acquisition orders are literally ‘stillborn’, awaiting the final nod from the Centre.
When the petitions came up for hearing, deputy solicitor-general S Manu said the Centre has not approved the DPR. Therefore, it could not be said that there is a project as such. Even after the DPR is approved, it would have to be vetted by various authorities at the Centre. Until the final approval is granted by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs of the Centre, the project could not be said to be on the anvil and it could at best be only a proposal. He also submitted that the Centre has not given any permission for conducting SIA and any action taken in this regard would be at the state government’s risk and responsibility.
The court also noted that the state government’s stand is that unless the proposal obtains the concurrence of the Centre, the project could not be fructified. The petitions were closed with the full liberty to petitioners for seeking rehearing in the cases as and when further action is taken by the state government either for the SIA or for the acquisition of land.