The Supreme Court of India today allowed the central government to go ahead with the Char Dham road project and construction of three double-lane strategic highways as part of the project. The court also constituted a committee to be led by former Supreme Court judge AK Sikri to ensure all remedial measures are taken in the interest of the environment and said that recommendations of the committee should be implemented while going ahead with the project.
Delivering its verdict in the case, Justice DY Chandrachud said that the court in ‘exercise of judicial review cannot second guess the requirements of the armed forces’ and added that armed forces cannot be held up for statement made to media as a statement written in stone. He said that the apex court cannot question the policy choice of the government in this case. “Highways which are strategic roads for armed forces cannot be compared to other such hilly or mountainous roads,” said Justice Chandrachud.
“We find there are no malafides in MA filed by the defence ministry. The Ministry of Defence is authorized to design operational requirements of armed forces. Bonafide of Ministry of Defence is apparent from security concerns raised in the security committee meeting,” Bar & Bench quoted Justice Chandrachud as saying.
The strategic 900-km-long Chardham project worth Rs 12,000 crore aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath in Uttarakhand.
The court was hearing Centre’s plea seeking modification of the September 8, 2020 order, which had asked the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to follow the 2018 circular stipulating carriageway width of 5.5 metres on the ambitious Chardham highway project, which goes up to the border with China.
In its application, the MoD had said it seeks modification of the order and directions that the national highways from Rishikesh to Mana, from Rishikesh to Gangotri, and from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh may be developed to two-lane configuration.