SC cites national security, allows Char Dham project | India News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed an expansion of large parts of the strategic Char Dham road project in Uttarakhand to enable rapid deployment of men, machinery and rearmament of armed forces on it India-China borders, given the recent Chinese build-up, but found a delicate balance in green concerns by ordering strict implementation of environmental protection measures.
Apart from the road leading from Rishikesh to Yamunotri, which the Ministry of Defense (MoD) had not applied for permission to widen, a bench of judges gave permission for DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath MoD and the Ministry of Road Transport and Motorways (MoRTH) to double-track paved shoulder (DLPS) highways connecting Rishikesh to Mana (beyond Badrinath), Rishikesh to Gangotri and Tanakpur to Pithoragarh. This will provide an additional two meters width for strategic roads for easy and fast transport of men and defense equipment.
In doing so, the court amended the court’s order of September 8, 2020, adopted by a bench chaired by Judge RF Nariman, and denied permission to widen the strategic paths according to the requirements of the armed forces. While SC’s 2020 order was based on the 2018 MoRTH announcement, Tuesday’s verdict allowed double-track carriageway with paved shoulders as indicated in the 2020 MoRTH circular. The extra width is typically marked on the sides of the carriageways.
To write the 83-page judgment that weighed national security considerations and the requirement for armed forces and the indisputable need to protect the environment, Judge Chandrachud said that the recommendations of the SC Constituent Assembly (HPC) for the preservation of the environment and remedial measures in connection with the implementation of the Chardham project must be implemented in letter and spirit. This aims to preserve the transfer of environmental capital between generations.
Judges Chandrachud, Kant and Nath unanimously ruled that national highways provide vital links to the establishment of the armed forces along the Nelong Axis, the Mana Pass, the Rimkhim Pass, the Niti Pass and the Lipulekh Pass (all along the border between Indo-China). “We find that the need for the development of national motorways of a DLPS standard is proportionate to the objective of fulfillment the nation’s security problems as assessed by MoD. “This is reinforced by the fact that the roads beyond the motorways of the project, in addition to Gangotri, Mana and Pithoragarh, are being developed by MoD as double-track motorways,” the bench said.
The bench of three judges set up a monitoring committee chaired by former SC judge AK Sikri and each consisting of a representative from the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI and Forest Research Institute, to ensure implementation of the HPC-recommended environmental protection measures for the Chardham project) .
However, the fair Chanrachud-led bench clarified that the purpose of the committee is “not to re-analyze the project, but to assess the implementation of the recommendations already given by the HPC”. The Monitoring Committee instructed all relevant authorities, including the MoD and MoRTH, to submit a monthly report on compliance with environmental protection measures to the Committee, which in turn will submit a report to the Monitoring Committee every four months.
It said the HPC “will continue its work of overseeing the implementation of its recommendations for the project, with the exception of the national highways from Rishikesh to Mana, Rishikesh to Gangotri and Tanakpur to Pithoragarh, which now fall under the supervision area” . selection”.
The bench made a statement to the media by the then army chief Bipan Rawat that existing roads were good enough for the needs of the army cannot be cited as a reason to refuse widening of roads. “The appellants (NGO Citizens for Green Doon) have referred to a statement made … in 2019 in a media interview … The recent past has posed serious challenges to national security. The armed forces can not be restrained to a statement made during a media interaction in 2019, as if it were a decree written in stone …. In its exercise of judicial control, this court can not omit the armed infrastructure needs Forces … The appellants’ submissions require the Court to hear the political choice of the establishment entrusted by law with the defense of the nation. This is not allowed. ”
A controversy had arisen with the HPC report on the Char Dham project. While the overwhelming majority approved the project, the chairman of the HPC had written a dissent note citing an environmental disaster that could be triggered by the project on a young mountain range like the Himalayas. Judge Chandrachud said that the HPC may be competent to assess the environmental impact of the project in the Himalayas, but was certainly not qualified to assess the country’s security needs given the recent developments on the northern borders due to troops’ gathering and positioning of weapons. China.
“The competing interests that HPC had to assess were environmental considerations in relation to infrastructure development, whose primary cause in this project was focused on increasing tourism, giving a boost to the economy and facilitating transport to perform. Char Dham Pilgrimage. “Balancing the interests of the defense in relation to environmental considerations was outside the scope of the HPC,” the court said.
Drawing out the environmental concerns and mitigation measures proposed by the HPC for the Char Dham project, the bench said: “We impose that MoRTH and MoD may continue with the project provided that it addresses all the concerns raised by the HPC and enumerated by this Court in this judgment … ”
“The considerations for the development of national highways in plains and hilly and mountainous regions are not identical. Similarly, the considerations governing the construction of highways that are strategic roads from a defense perspective and that can be used by the nation’s armed forces are not “We must reach the same level as other roads in hilly and mountainous areas. We must therefore strike a delicate balance between environmental considerations so that they do not hamper infrastructure development, especially in areas of strategic importance that are crucial to the nation’s security,” it said.

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