The NGO, Citizens for Green Doon, has challenged the Stage-I forest and wildlife clearance granted for improvement and expansion of roads by felling trees.
Referring to the India-China border standoff and the unabated incursion attempts by the PLA, the Supreme Court on Tuesday wondered whether a constitutional court can override the need of the Army to defend the country and say that the protection of environment will triumph over defence needs.
The top court said that it cannot ignore the fact that there is an adversary who has developed infrastructure on the border up to the hilt and the Army needs better roads up to the border which has not seen any radical changes since the 1962 war.
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With the Centre pushing for increasing the width of the Char Dham road in Uttarakhand to allow the Army quicker access to areas along the boundary with China, Justice D Y Chandrachud, heading a three-judge bench, referred to “recent events” and said: “We cannot deny the fact that at such a height, the security of the nation is at stake. Can the highest constitutional court say that we will override defence needs particularly in the face of recent events? Can we say that environment will triumph over the defence of the nation? Or we say that defence concerns be taken care of so that environmental degradation does not take place?”
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath, posed these questions to Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves who was representing Citizens for Green Doon. The NGO has challenged the Stage-I forest and wildlife clearance granted for improvement and expansion of roads by felling trees.
The Centre told the Supreme Court that China has made a huge build-up in the Tibet region and the Army needs broader roads to move heavy vehicles up to the India-China border to avoid a 1962 war-like situation.
It informed the top court that feeder roads like from Rishikesh to Gangotri, Rishikesh to Mana, and Tanakpur to Pithoragarh which lead up to the northern border with China connect Army camps at Dehradun and Meerut which have bases of missile launchers and heavy artillery. The Centre said that the Army needs to be ready for any exigency and cannot be caught napping like it happened in 1962.
The top court observed that all development has to be sustainable and balanced with the defence of the nation and protection of the environment and the court cannot second guess the defence needs of the country.