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Power to Notify Any Land Acquisition for Construction of National Highway Lies with Centre: SC [READ JUDGMENT]

Power to Notify Any Land Acquisition for Construction of National Highway Lies with Centre: SC [READ JUDGMENT]
Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has upheld notifications issued under the National Highways Act, 1956, for acquisition of land for construction of the Chennai-Krishnagiri-Salem national highway.

The verdict came on a batch of appeals filed by the Centre and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and few landowners and others. These pleas were filed against the Madras High Court's judgement, holding as “illegal and bad in law” the notifications issued.

Supreme Court’s Judgement:

  1. There is nothing in the Constitution which constricts the power of Parliament to make a law for declaring any stretch/section within the State (not being a road or an existing highway) to be a national highway.
  2. Provisions in the Constitution unambiguously indicate that the legislative as well as executive power regarding all matters concerning and connected with a highway to be designated as a national highway, vests in Parliament, and the laws to be made by it in that regard.
  3. The Central government is free to construct/build a new national highway keeping in mind the obligations it has to discharge under Part IV of the Constitution (Directive Principles of State Policy) for securing a social order and promotion of welfare of the people in the concerned region.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari said that “there is nothing in the Constitution which constricts the power of Parliament to make a law for declaring any stretch/section within the State not being a road or an existing highway, to be a national highway”.

On the other hand, the court said, “provisions in the Constitution unambiguously indicate that the legislative as well as executive power regarding all matters concerning and connected with a highway to be designated as a national highway, vests in Parliament, and the laws to be made by it in that regard. For the same reason, the complete executive power also vests within the Union.”

the bench pointed out that “The Central government, is free to construct/build a new national highway keeping in mind the obligations it has to discharge under Part IV of the Constitution for securing a social order and promotion of welfare of the people in the concerned region, to provide them adequate means of livelihood, distribute material resources as best to subserve the common good, create new opportunities, so as to empower the people of that area including provisioning new economic opportunities in the area through which the national highway would pass and the country’s economy as a whole".

The project had come under challenge on grounds that the notification issued under Section 3(A) of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) Act, 1988 could only have been done after environmental clearance. 

Prior environmental clearance under the Environment (Protection) Act and Rules of 1986 is required to be taken before commencement of the “actual construction or building work” of the national highway by the executing agency (NHAI).

The HC upheld the argument that prior environmental clearance was needed for issuing the notification under Section 3(A) for the project, 10 km of which is scheduled to pass through the forest region.

Overruling this, the SC said the notification is only an expression of interest to acquire the designated land, and no prior environmental clearance was needed before issuing it.

 

[READ JUDGMENT]


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