The center on Friday told the Supreme Court that its appeal for the previous court order is being heard urgently because the military needs expanded roads in the Chardham Expressway project that reaches the border of China due to the problems it faces there. The 900km strategic Chardham Highway project aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy cities – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath – in Uttarakhand.

The panel of judges DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna was informed by Prosecutor K.K. Venugopal that the Department of Defense had applied for a subpoena. We want this request to be heard on an urgent basis. Venugopal said the army needed to widen the border roads in the northern sector due to the problems there, adding that the court had earlier said the width should not be more than 5.5 metres. The bench directed the registry to seek instructions from the Chief Justice of India and to include the matter before the appropriate court along with the other petitions.

The Supreme Court was hearing a petition by the NGO ‘Citizens for Green Doon’ seeking a directive to stop logging without permits on Ganeshpur-Dehradun Road (NH-72A), part of the Delhi-Dehradun Expressway. The Supreme Court noted that once deforestation is given there is no need for separate clearing of logging.

Attorney Ritwik Dutta, who represents the NGO, said NGT said that a permit from the relevant authority is required to cut down trees and in this case there is no such permit. The Supreme Court said the order will be inserted after the Diwali break before the appropriate bench.

Another lawyer representing the NGO said there may have been some confusion as the attorney general may have been confused with the matter as it is the same organization that has challenged road expansion in Chardham project and logging on Ganeshpur-Dehradun road. A different matter. On September 7, the Supreme Court refused to accept a lawsuit filed by the NGO challenging the forest and wildlife permits granted for Ganeshpur-Dehradun Road (NH-72A), part of the Delhi-Dehradun Expressway and asked the petitioner to first move the Green Court patriotism with its grievances.

The High Court had indicated that the first phase of deforestation was granted in September last year and wildlife clearance was granted on 5 January 2021 for a 19.78 km stretch of road from Ganeshpur (in UP) to Dehradun. The Delhi-Don Expressway will connect the two cities right after the intersection of districts like Loni, Baghpat, Chamli, Saharanpur and Ganeshpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Uttarakhand will have 3.6 km of highway while about 16 km will pass through Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, on May 11, the Supreme Court said it would look into the matter related to the expansion of the Chardham Expressway project, after the center said it was a matter of national security with the road up to the border of China.

The Center, in an affidavit provided earlier in the matter, urged the Supreme Court to accept the majority report of the 21 members of the High Power Commission (HPC) recommending that the road be developed into two lanes with paved shoulders (10) a meter wide road) taking into account strategic requirements and defrosting needs. HPC is monitoring the Chardham Expressway project on extending roads to the Indo-China border in Uttarakhand.

Earlier, the Ministry of Defense sought to amend a Supreme Court order issued on September 8 last year that required the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to follow the 2018 circular stipulating the width of the highway of 5.5 meters. In August 2019, the Supreme Court cleared the decks for the Shardham Expressway project by amending an order issued by the National Green Court to form the HPC to look into environmental concerns.

She had said that HPC would consider the cumulative and independent impact of Project Chardham on the entire Himalayan Valley, among other things.

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