SRINAGAR, Jan 19: The Supreme Court has paved way for construction of road widening and flyover on National Highway connecting the Jammu-Akhnoor-Poonch and Rajouri, by staying the operation of order of High Court whereby status quo was directed to be maintained.
The three Judge bench comprising Justice A M Khanwilkar, Justice B R Gawai and Justice Krishna Murari stayed the operation of the order of Division Bench of J&K High Court. The High Court on December 31, while hearing the appeal filed by the persons whose land was acquired for the purpose of the project, had directed for maintaining status quo with regard to the land in question.
The executing agency of the project National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) challenged the order of High Court before the Supreme Court on various grounds. Before filing of appeal by the aggrieved persons they had approached the writ court and the writ court dismissed their plea by recording that there is no merit in their petition by challenging the land acquisition for the purpose of project.
Their plea was dismissed by the then Acting Chief Justice of High Court on the ground made by the counsels appearing for executing agency as well as Government advocates Seema Shekhar (Sr. AAG) and Ashish Singh Kotwal that major part of the acquired land is owned by the State and the aggrieved petitioners not shown to be owners of the acquired land and the project is of public importance as the road caters to need of armed forces in border areas.
Court had said that the challenge of acquisition process has been made of a very small portion of land and after the announcement of award. The project as per the court also is of immense public importance and major part of that is already complete and remaining working has hampered due to litigation and restraint orders from court.
The four lanning project of the said road is a Government of India funded project and the arguments made by the counsel for aggrieved persons court said, do not carry any weight with regard to knowledge about the acquisition of land much before even the notification was issued.
Apart from road widening, a flyover is also being constructed and out of 126 pillars for the said flyover, about 99 have already been constructed and the said project also got stalled due to pending litigation filed by the aggrieved persons.
Court with regard to compensation part, has been informed that there is error in payment process to the rightful owners and the same can be corrected and the compensation can be paid to the persons who are rightful owners of the acquired land.
NHIDCL counsel Ashish Kotwal submitted before the court that the challenge to the acquisition process by the persons whose land is very small in portion out of the total acquired land does not required to be interfered with as the project is near completion.
The road as per the brief record connects the sensitive border areas in Jammu and Kashmir as it leads form Jammu to Akhnoor and thereafter Poonch-Rajouri and further leads to Kashmir via Mughal road.
The road at present is merely of two lane and is being widened by making it four lane in order to cater cross traffic. The Government of India has taken all the projects for improving infrastructural facilities especially the connectivity in the border areas with priority.
“Any acquisition process cannot be stalled on account of technical issues raised, where the project is of national importance and the affected persons already had knowledge of the acquisition”, Court had said while dismissing their basic plea.
Writ court on informing of completion of work of almost 80 percent on the project dismissed the plea by saying that at this stage it will not be in larger public interest to quash the acquisition.
“If the aforesaid works are not completed there would be loss of crores of rupees of public exchequer and any delay in completion of the project will result in compromising with the security of the country”, read the writ court judgment.
Writ court, however, for the relief of payment of compensation to the rightful owners and possession of land more than acquired said, the competent authority shall take appropriate action in this regard.