A division bench of the Madras High Court, comprising justices TS Sivagnanam and Bhavani Subbaroyan, on September 20, 2018, directed the state government and its officials to refrain from undertaking any precipitative action on land acquisition for the proposed Salem-Chennai highway project. The court’s direction came, during the resumed hearing of a batch of petitions from land owners and public interest litigation pleas, against the eight-lane project.
The court was responding, after the counsel for one of the petitioners asserted that four people, who were assisting the public in submitting written objections over the land acquisition, had been arrested. “We have made a very pointed observation in several of our earlier orders that nothing should be precipitated by the state government or its officials,” the bench said. It also directed the government pleader to issue necessary instructions to the officers, more particularly those in the field level, not to precipitate any problem further, saying the court would view any such action very seriously.
On concerns over the impact of the project on wildlife, the state’s advocate general Vijay Narayan said, clearance had been granted by the Forest Department, strictly in accordance with the procedure and with the available technology. The bird sanctuaries falling along the corridor were situated well beyond the eco-sensitive distance of 10 kms from the point of land acquisition, he added. Recording the submissions, the bench posted the matter to September 24, 2018. The court had, on August 21, 2018, restrained the centre and the Tamil Nadu government, from dispossessing people of their lands to be acquired for the project, which has run into opposition from some quarters, including a section of farmers, till further orders.