Supreme Court allows Centre to widen roads for Char Dham project in Uttarakhand

The Supreme Court today allowed an application filed by the Ministry of Defence for the double-lane widening of roads that are part of the 899-kilometer Char Dham project in Uttarakhand.

A bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Vikram Nath pronounced orders in the application filed by the Ministry of Defence seeking modification of the order dated September 8, 2020, which was passed by a three-Judge Bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman, in order to permit the Union of India to make roads with 10 Meters tarred surface as opposed to the 5.5 meters as ordered by the Court.

The Court today modified the order dated September 8, 2020, and allowed the Defence Ministry to widen the road as sought. At the same time, the Court took note of the environmental concerns raised by the High Powered Committee and directed the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway to implement the recommendations made by the Committee.

The Court also appointed former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri as the head of the oversight committee to oversee the implementation of the HPC recommendations.

The Court noted that the MoRTH circulars do not forbid the double-laning of roads in hilly and mountainous terrains if the roads are of strategic and border importance. The Court also noted that there cannot be judicial review over defence requirements.

The Court rejected the arguments raised by the applicant NGO “Citizens for Doon” that the Defence Ministry’s application was based out of “mala-fides” and was an attempt to re-litigate issues already decided by the earlier bench.

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