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Char Dham Road Project: Petitions to be listed in last week of January, 2021 as ordered by SC

Char Dham Road Project: Petitions to be listed in last week of January, 2021 as ordered by SC
On Monday, i.e. 18.01.2021, the Supreme Court listed the Char Dham Yatra road project for hearing on a Non-Miscellaneous Day in the last week of January.

A three judge bench comprising of Justices Nariman, Sinha and Indira Banerjee, taking into consideration the current situation with regard to the eco system and fragility of the mountain terrains passed an interim order to keep the Char Dham road width at 5.5m. 

Recent Updates:

When Justice R.F. Nariman was informed of the minority report submitted by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves in the form of objections, he ordered the matter to be listed on a NMD (Non-Miscellaneous Day) in the last week of January.

Background of the project:

A Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman, on December 2, asked the High Powered Committee, headed by the noted environmentalist ‘Dr Ravi Chopra’ to consider the plea by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Road Transport in two weeks. According to the plea, narrowing the feeder roads along the India-China border in Uttarakhand would cause “serious repurcussions” to national security.

Majority in favour of expanding the width of Char Dham roads:

In its report to the SC dated December 31, 2020, the high-powered committee presented a divided opinion with the majority in favour of the wider roads on the Char Dham route. This was because of the strategic requirement and snow removal needs. The state government's focus on reversing the migration in border areas by providing ample livelihood and ease of transportation were some other factors taken into consideration by the majority report.

While the environmentalists wanted the Court to stick to its original order of 5 metres, others felt that most of the work on the road project had already been done.

“Most trees which had to be felled had already been felled; and the most of the road cutting work had already been done. Therefore, there was no logic now in reducing the width to 5 metres, most of the work having already been completed.”

Govt asks SC to accept panel’s majority view:

The ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) has thus urged the Supreme Court to accept the majority view, favouring a favoured a 10-metre road width for the Rs.12,000-crore Char Dham highway project. The ministry has pointed out that 21 out of 26 members of the court-appointed HPC have been in favour of the wider road to ease movement of military forces along the Indo-China border areas, and to ensure better amenities for local communities.They supported the circular, which had amended an earlier MoRTH one of March 2018 that called for narrower roads to protect the Himalayan ecosystem

The affidavit said, “The Forces have to take heavy vehicles, tanks, self-propelled artillery and troops to the Indo-China border... It is the specific need of the Armed Forces to defend the country against any possible external aggression at the northern border - this had required amendments in the March 2018 circular”.

The affidavit also referred to a “recent face-off” with Nepal in Lipulekh side in 2020, saying all these sectors were ‘highly sensitive’.

Earlier Court Order:

On 8th September last year, the Supreme Court had asked the Central government to follow the 2018 notification of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for construction of Char Dham National Highway. The Supreme Court also directed the government to plant trees to compensate for the loss of forest area due to the construction of the Char Dham project.


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