SC refuses to stop HC stay on Chennai-Salem expressway

The Supreme Court has refused to grant interim relief to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on an earlier order by the Madras High Court, quashing land acquisition for the Chennai-Salem eight-lane expressway.

A vacation bench of Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice M R Shah, however, issued notice to various stakeholders including the Tamil Nadu government.

On Friday last, the Project Implementation Unit of the National Highways Authority of India filed a plea in the Supreme Court challenging the Madras High Court order that cancelled the land acquisition announcement for the controversial eight-lane expressway between Chennai and Salem at a cost of about Rs 10,000 crore.

The apex court has asked all petitioners— including the state government, farmers and former Union Minister Anbumani Ramadoss— to reply within a month explaining their position.

The proposed Rs 10,000 crore highway to cut down travel time between Chennai and Salem had met with massive protests across the state beginning in May last year. The highways project, initiated under the Bharatmala Pariyojana scheme, aims to add to the three already existing routes between the two districts.

In April, the Madras High Court had stayed land acquisition for the eight-lane road connecting Chennai with Salem, a project jointly developed by the Central and the Tamil Nadu governments.

A division bench of Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice V Bhavani Subbaroyan had held the project would have an impact on the environment, which includes water bodies, and that the project report submitted by the consultant is not sufficient and environmental clearance is necessary.