New Delhi/Chennai, May 31 (IANS) A plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the Madras High Court order that cancelled the land acquisition announcement for the controversial eight-lane expressway between Chennai and Salem at a cost of about Rs 10,000 crore.
A bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and A.S. Bopanna agreed to take up the matter on June 3 on the request for urgent hearing made by the counsel representing the project director of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).
In April, the Madras High Court had stalled the proceedings regarding land acquisition for the eight-lane road connecting Chennai with Salem, a project jointly developed by the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government.
A division bench of the Madras High Court comprising Justices T.S. Sivagnanam and V. Bhavani Subbaroyan quashed the proceedings stating that the project would have an impact on the environment, which includes water bodies, and that the project report submitted by the consultant is not sufficient. The HC bench called for environmental clearance.
A batch of petitions was filed in the high court against the project.
Prominent among the petitioners was former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, which aligned with the BJP-AIADMK in the Lok Sabha elections.
In a statement, Ramadoss said the PMK had been opposing the project because there were already three highways connecting Chennai and Salem. A national highway was being converted into a four-lane road between Vaniambadi and Salem, he said.
Ramadoss said the proposed 277-km eight-lane expressway will affect the livelihood of over 10,000 farmers.
The Centre defending the project said the highway will play a major role in reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, as diesel consumption would be reduced by 10 crore litres per annum.
Elaborating on the argument on the consumption of diesel, the Centre pointed out that it would come down drastically, as the distance between Chennai will be reduced.
The Centre had claimed that the expressway was an integral part of its major road programme known as Bharatmala Pariyojana-I, which targets by 2022 construction of about 35,000 km of national highways across the country.
The total project cost is estimated at whopping Rs 5,35,000 crore. It aims at decongesting six national corridors. The Centre had also informed the court that prior environmental clearance was not required from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, before issuing preliminary land acquisition notifications under Section 3A(1) of the National Highways Act of 1956.
Both the Modi government and the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu are interested in the project.