NGO files petition in SC to stop widening of roads that reach Indo-China border, instead tells army to airlift!

| SamvadaWorld Staff

Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India and the founder of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) Colin Gonsalves has filed a petition to stop the widening of roads that connect the Char Dham in Uttarakhand as it will cause adverse impact in the hilly region resulting from the felling of trees. The Char Dham road network also reaches the Indo-China border and is used by the Indian army.

Supporting Gonsalves’ stand is an alleged NGO called “Citizens For Green Doon”. They are represented by lawyers Colin Gonzales and Mohammad Aftab, who had filed a petition in the Supreme Court to stop the construction of roads on the Indo-China border in Uttarakhand, citing the environmental impact. Instead, they have asked that the “Indian Forces can use air route in war”.

The three-judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and Vikram Nath heard the petition on behalf of the NGO Citizens for Green Doon. Gonsalves argued against the stand of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), stating that such developments would lead to massive landslides wherever roads are widened.

Appearing for the government, Attorney General K K Venugopal said, “In the 1962 war, our troops were without supplies and had to undertake arduous treks to reach the border outposts. We know what happened. Given the situation at the border and the new legislation passed by the Chinese government to override claims of neighbouring countries on disputes over border lands, there is an urgent need to build infrastructure to carry heavy artillery, tanks, missile launchers and swift movement of troops.”

“The army does not want to be caught napping as it was in 1962,” Venugopal said, adding that the border roads – from Badrinath to Mana pass, from Gangotri to Muningla pass, and Pithoragarh to Lipulekh pass – have been widened for movement of army trucks. “But, the widening of border roads are meaningless if the feeder roads are not widened,” he said.

After both parties completed their summation and argument, the Supreme Court bench observed that it cannot turn a blind eye to the troop build-up and shoring up of infrastructure by China at India’s border but ruled that the environment will always trump national security to brush aside the Centre’s plea for widening of the strategic feeder roads linking defence facilities along the Indo-China border.

In the inconclusive hearing, Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and Vikram Nath said, “There is no doubt that sustainable development has to be balanced with national security requirements. Can the highest constitutional court override the concerns of armed forces, particularly given the contemporary developments at the Indo-China border?”

(The story was first published on The Commune. Republished with permission)

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