SC order on developmental projects applicable not just to SilverLine: Kerala HC
Kochi, Mar 29: Admitting it was wrong to stall the SilverLine project as pointed out by the Supreme Court, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday said the apex court has observed there needs to be a pan-India approach in such matters and therefore, this standard would be applicable to other projects in the country which face the same opposition as faced by the semi-high speed rail corridor in the southern state.
The high court was referring to a recent ruling by the apex court directing a hands-off approach by the courts in dealing with pleas opposing major developmental projects in the country.
Justice Devan Ramachandran said in view of that ruling and the apex court's Monday (March 28) decision, dismissing the appeals against a high court order permitting the Kerala government to go ahead with its SilverLine survey, all large scale projects, including waterways, national highways and bullet trains, have to be dealt with the same yardstick.
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a batch of appeals against the Kerala HC order stating the state government has the powers to conduct a survey and mark properties appropriately for conducting a social impact assessment (SIA) in connection with the SilverLine project.
A bench of Justices M R Shah and B V Nagarathna dismissed the appeals and observed that the "prestigious project couldn't have been stalled by a single judge" of the high court.
The Supreme Court is absolutely right. This court should not have stalled the project. I definitely stand corrected. We need to have a pan-India approach. Now every project in India would be measured by the same yardstick," the judge said.
In a possible reference to the opposition to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor by some political parties, Justice Ramachandran also said "those trying to implement projects here, would be opposing it at other places and therefore, this Supreme Court order would be applicable to them too".
The observations by the high court came during hearing of several pleas opposing the ongoing SilverLine survey process as well as the type of stones laid by the K-Rail - a joint venture of the Kerala government and the Railway Ministry for developing railway infrastructure in the southern state.
Along with the observations, the high court also posed some queries to the state government - "Why the concrete poles instead of ordinary stones? Why do you want to scare the people using such stones? Are these stones permanent or would they be changed with change in alignment? Will the stones be removed after carrying out the SIA? Can the property so marked be used by owners for sale or mortgage?" The high court left it to the state government to answer these queries on the next date of hearing - April 6 - when, it said, these matters would be possibly disposed of by saying that the survey is for a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study.
Justice Ramachandran said even the apex court has observed that the survey was for an SIA.
The judge also said the state government can do whatever it wants as per the law and that the endeavour of the high court was only to ensure the project is implemented as per the law.
"We were only trying to tell you that SilverLine should be on the proper rails," the court added.
Some of the judge's observations were objected to by the senior government pleader, appearing for the state, who said that such "statements" put them in a "helpless" situation as these are widely reported by the media.
The Kerala government's ambitious SilverLine project is being opposed in various parts of the state with the general public as well as Congress-led UDF opposition and the BJP protesting against the survey wherever it is being conducted.
Women and children too were seen participating in the protests where agitators not only blocked K-Rail officials, supported by the police, from laying the concrete poles as part of the survey, they also removed the installed poles from several places.
The 530-kilometre long SilverLine semi-high speed rail corridor which starts from Thiruvananthapuram will have stoppages at Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode and Kannur before reaching Kasaragod. The entire journey from one end to the other is expected to take around four hours.