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Char Dham Highway Widening: Defence Needs Over Environmental? SC in Predicament

The court was hearing a plea by an NGO against the government's plan to widen the Char Dham Highway up to 10 metre

Published
India
2 min read
Char Dham Highway Widening: Defence Needs Over Environmental? SC in Predicament
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 9 November, was told by the Union government that the expansion of the Char Dham Highway is in the interest of national security while China is building wider roads and structures on the other side of the border.

The arguments were made while the court was hearing a plea by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) against the government's plan to widen the Char Dham Highway up to 10 metre, as against the mandated 5.5 metre.

The NGO, Green Doon, in its plea opposing the widening of the highway, cited the massive landslides and other environmental disasters that have resulted due to felling of trees and destruction of ecosystems for infrastructure projects.

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What the Petitioner Said

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves told the bench that the army has not asked for the roads to be widened and that the Union government was doing so only for the Char Dham Pariyojana in 2016.

"You have to weigh that cost because the Himalayas have physical restrictions on what human beings can do. Studies show that black soot collection, due to heavy traffic up and down the roads and helicopters going, is setting on the glacier which is very close to the Char Dham, these glaciers are breaking and you have catastrophe after catastrophe!" he said in court, as quoted by Live Law.

What the Government Said

Representing the Union government, Attorney General KK Venugopal said that the concerns were of national security.

"China is building helipads and buildings on the other side… so trucks carrying artillery, rocket launchers and tanks may have to pass through these roads," Venugopal said.

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What the Bench Said

The bench said that if the concerns are defence-related, it is a predicament for the court and the matter has to be approached in a nuanced way.

"Can the highest constitutional court say that we will override the defence needs particularly in the face of recent events especially for environmental concerns - or should court have more nuanced approach?" Justive DY Chandrachud said, as quoted by NDTV.

The bench further asked if Gonsalves had any reports of Chinese activity on the other side and the same must be produced before the court.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.

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