With Lok Sabha elections out of the way, the Centre on Friday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, challenging the Madras High Court order against the eight-lane Chennai-Salem Expressway. A vacation bench of Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna fixed the hearing for June 3.
Leader of the Opposition and DMK president M K Stalin has termed the appeal as a betrayal by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami. The Chief Minister during the Lok Sabha election campaign had assured farmers opposed to the project that he would not go in appeal against the high court order of April 18 which quashed the GO that provided for takeover of land for the project without prior environmental clearance and without public hearing despite its passing through agricultural and forest lands.
Stalin said the Centre had filed the appeal after the defeat of the AIADMK-BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu in the Lok Sabha elections. He said the Centre should withdraw the appeal and consider alternative ways.
The opponents of the project say there are already three highways between Chennai and Salem and a third way is being considered mainly because Palanisami hails from Salem which is in the Kongu belt, the traditional stronghold of the AIADMK.
Though the AIADMK got just one seat in the Lok Sabha polls because of anti-Modi wave in Tamil Nadu, its rout even in the Kongu belt is mainly because of the eight-lane project that it sought to impose on the people.
The high court order, quashing the National Highway Authority of India notification was passed on a batch of writ petitions by 35 landowners as well as Pattali Makkal Katchi’s youth wing leader Anbumani Ramadoss.
The Centre’s decision to appeal against this order has marked the formal end of the election alliance between the AIADMK and the PMK. Ramadoss said he had already filed a caveat in the apex court that he should be heard before the court hears any appeal against the high court order.
The Rs 10,000 crore greenfield project is part of the Centre’s ambitious Bharatamala Pariyojana I to lay 35,000 km of national highways before 2022.