HEADLINES:
October 19 2018
HC wants explanation on felling of trees for expressway
12 September 2018

Seeks status report on Environment Impact Assessment

The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to file a detailed affidavit by Friday, explaining the circumstances under which several trees were felled near the Kalvarayan hills, on lands that were proposed to be acquired for the ambitious ₹10,000-crore Chennai-Salem greenfield expressway.

A Division Bench of Justices T.S. Sivagnanam and V. Bhavani Subbaroyan issued the direction while hearing a batch of cases filed against the acquisition proceedings. It also directed the Centre to spell out the exact stage of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reportedly being carried out for the project.

The orders were passed after a host of advocates, including P. Rathinam, T. Mohan, A.P. Suryaprakasam and V. Balu, complained about more than 500 trees being felled for the project without obtaining permission from the court or an empowered committee constituted by the Supreme Court in the famous T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad case.

‘File detailed affidavit’

On the other hand, Government Pleader T.N. Rajagopalan claimed that only 109 trees had been “felled illegally”, for which necessary action had been initiated by the officials concerned. He also produced a communication he had received in this regard from the District Revenue Officer of Dharmapuri.

After perusing the communication, the judges observed that they were not convinced with the reasons given in it. Stating that it did not answer several questions, including the necessity to cut trees from a hilly area, they insisted upon the filing of a detailed affidavit explaining the reasons for having cut the trees.

During the hearing, Justice Bhavani Subbaroyan referred to Swaraj India Party leader Yogendra Yadav’s arrest in Tiruvannamalai when he attempted to meet villagers whose lands were to be acquired for the project. She wondered how the police could even prevent a person, who had come all the way from Delhi, from expressing his support to the farmers.

Mr. Mohan said: “This is a fear psychosis created by the police to ensure that there is no dissent against the project. Even voicing democratic opinion is being stifled by the State. Mr. Yogendra Yadav was not even allowed to enter the villages; forget about conducting meetings and holding discussions.”

 

 

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