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Posted at: Sep 5, 2018, 12:42 AM; last updated: Sep 5, 2018, 12:42 AM (IST)

Green tribunal refers plea challenging Char Dham road project to larger Bench

New Delhi, September 4

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday referred to a larger Bench a petition dealing with the environmental clearance issue related to the Char Dham highway project for providing all-weather connectivity to four holy towns of Uttarakhand.

A Bench of Justices Jawad Rahim and SP Wangdi and expert member Nagin Nanda said as the Supreme Court had noted in its order that the matter was a complex one, it should be heard by a larger Bench. The green panel said the Bench would be decided by the NGT chairperson, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, and posted the matter for hearing on September 6.

“In view of the directions of the Supreme Court and noting the complexity of the issue involved, we are of the opinion that the matter be heard by a larger Bench,” the Bench said.  Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for petitioner NGO ‘Citizens for Green Doon’, said under “no circumstance”, the matter could go to a different Bench if the judgment had been reserved in the matter.

He said as per the apex court order, the case should be heard by the same Bench which was hearing it earlier.

The top court had on August 27 directed the NGT chairman to accord “one clear day” to an original Bench, which had heard petitions dealing with environmental clearance issues related to the project.

“Since the matter appear to be a complex one and has been heard over several days, we take it that the rehearing will only be on some final aspects. This being the case, we accede to what Parikh says and request the chairman to grant at least one clear day to the same tribunal to finally dispose of the matters before it,” the top court had said.

The NGO had approached the top court when a Bench headed by the new NGT chairperson recently said it would rehear the matter in entirety. The green panel is seized of the petitions which are dealing with environmental clearances for the project which aims to connect Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttarakhand.

The Centre had told the tribunal that the project is of national importance as it is located in the border area.

“The expansion of roads is required in larger national interest and there cannot be any compromise on this. The project also involves greater public interest of facilitating the Chard Dam yatra,” it had said earlier. The petitioner NGO had said environment clearance was a must for the project and the ongoing work was “blatantly illegal”. It had said the trees and mountains were also of national importance and it was the government’s duty to protect and preserve them.

The Environment Ministry had earlier informed the NGT that it has received no proposal for environmental clearance of the project and hence the question of an environment impact assessment (EIA) study of such a project does not arise.

The ministry also said  under the 2006 EIA notification, only new national highways and expansion of highways over 100 km need prior environmental clearance. The submission was made in response to a plea of the NGO which said the 900-km project in the hilly state was being carried out without any environmental impact assessment. The petition also contended that the Centre has allegedly deliberately broken it into small stretches to do away the requirement for obtaining environment clearance. — PTI


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