The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Centre to continue the construction work of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project even as the Manipur High Court is hearing the dispute over the contract between the government and a construction firm.
A bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde, said that the court is of the view that the work should go on with regard to the importance of the project.
“However in the interest of justice, we request the Manipur High Court to expeditiously dispose of the matter within a period of two weeks,” the bench said.
Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General KK Venugopal said, “We have received a letter from our ambassador in Myanmar saying that China completes its projects swiftly and on time but India’s credibility is under question.”
India has to start the construction of the first bridge so that Myanmar is not frustrated, he added.
“There is no stay on the project at this moment. We will start functioning on the first bridge. Our agencies can start on the project. Please do not pass any orders which would prevent us from taking advantage of the situation,” the Attorney General told the bench.
The bench noted that the Union of India is free to carry on its work because the stay expired in September last year.
Last month, the top court had cleared a major roadblock in the completion of the Trilateral Highway Connectivity project by staying the litigation initiated by the defaulting contractor before the Manipur Hgh Court.
According to media reports, the project was awarded to Niraj Cement Structurals Limited and Manipur Tribal Development Corporation Limited in 2017. However, due to delays, the Centre terminated the contract in 2018, following which Niraj Cement challenged the order of termination.
The 1,360 km long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is an initiative pertaining to the three countries. India is undertaking the construction of two sections of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar namely — the construction of 120.74 km Kalewa-Yagyi road section and construction of 69 bridges along with the approach road on the 149.70 km Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section.
In this regard, India and Myanmar had signed an agreement in 2016 as part of the ‘Act East Policy’ and boost road connectivity in the region. The highway will run from Manipur’s Moreh town to Mae Sot in Thailand through Myanmar.