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Supreme Court allows Chennai-Krishnagiri-Salem National Highway; Centre is entitled to acquisition

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld notifications issued under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Act, 1956, for acquisition of land for construction of the eight-lane Chennai-Krishnagiri-Salem national highway.

With the observation,

“The Centre is “fully competent” to notify “any land (not necessarily an existing road/highway) for acquisition, to construct a highway to be a national highway”.

The issue raised in the cases was about the legislative competence of the Parliament to enact a law for declaring open green field lands as national highways.

Argument placed before the bench was that only the State legislature is competent to make a law for construction of new roads traversing through the open green fields, where no road exists and only in case of an existing road/highway, would the Central Government have 52 power to declare it as a national highway.

The bench pointed out that,

the Central government, “is free to construct/build anew national highway keeping in mind the obligations it has to discharge under Part IV of the Constitution for securing a social order and promotion of welfare of the people in the concerned region, to provide them adequate means of livelihood, distribute material resources as best to subserve the common good, create new opportunities, so as to empower the people of that area including provisioning new economic opportunities in the area through which the national highway would pass and the country’s economy as a whole.”

The project had come under challenge on grounds that the notification issued under Section 3(A) of the NHAI Act could only have been done after environmental clearance. It was also contended that the Centre could not acquire open green fields for construction of national highway, and that only a pre-existing state highway could be declared as such.

The HC upheld the argument that prior environmental clearance was needed for issuing the notification under Section 3(A) for the project, 10 km of which is scheduled to pass through the forest region.

The Apex Court overruling the above contention of the High Court, said the notification is only an expression of interest to acquire the designated land, and no prior environmental clearance was needed before issuing it.











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