The Supreme Court bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Krishna Murari on Tuesday said that prior environmental clearance is not required at the stage of notification of land acquisition proceedings for the purpose of national highway.
The court further observed that it’s not necessary for the Centre or National Highway Authority to apply for prior environmental clearance at the stage of planning to take a decision to formalize the project of construction of highway. Also the court upheld notifications for acquisition of land for Chennai-Salem eight lane expressway.
The Supreme Court bench said that clearance from Government is required at the stage of construction and not before any actual building work. The bench also quashed the order of Madras HC which quashed the notifications issued for acquiring land for Chennai-Salem Expressway and allowed the appeal.
The bench further said that nothing is present in the rule or Act of NH which requires prior clearance and as per 2006 EIA notification it’s the duty of the executing agency to get the clearance done before starting the actual building work.
The court while considering the 2006 EIA rules said that- “Considering the interplay of provisions empowering the Central Government coupled with the purport of the notification/Office Memorandum issued by the MoEF dated 14.9.2006 and 7.10.2014 respectively, it will be paradoxical to countenance the argument that the Central Government is obliged to seek prior approval/permission of the competent authorities under the environment/forest laws, as the case may be, even before issuing notification under Section 2(2) or for that matter, Section 3A of the 1956 Act.”
Before concluding the judgment the court made clarifications that it has not considered validity or correctness of any clearances obtained by the competent authorities under concerned law in this very case.