The Madras High Court on December 14 reserved its order on a batch of writ petitions, challenging the land acquisition proceedings for the proposed eight lane Salem-Chennai green corridor project.
The division bench comprising Justices T S Sivagnanam and Bhavani Subbaroyan reserved its orders after the conclusion of arguments.
Earlier, the project director, National Highways Authority of India, Project Implementation Unit, Kancheepuram, filed a counter, contending that the question of dispossession did not arise if the notification under Section 3D of the National Highway Act was not issued.
Section 3D provides for the declaration of acquisition of land by the central government for purposes as enumerated under Section 3A(1) of the National Highways Act, 1956.
The director further said in compliance with the court's September 4 order, the authorities had so far not published the 3D notification.
On December 3, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had issued a fresh set of notifications to initiate land acquisition in Salem, Dharmapuri, Tiruvannamalai and Kancheepuram district for the Rs 10,000 crore project.
The court had on December 4 directed Assistant Solicitor General G Karthikeyan to file an affidavit, explaining the effect and impact of the new notification to acquire 1,125 acres of land.
The counter December 14 said an aerial drone precision survey was carried out for the entire corridor after the publication of the gazette notification on various dates from May 10, 2018 to June 21, 2018.
After completion of the survey, the alignment was frozen and boundary stones were fixed.
After publication of the notifications, there were minor changes in alignments, which led to benefits for the public, the counter claimed.
In fact, the required area of the lands had come down and also avoided demolition of several houses in various villages, it said.
The counter said that the alignment, which earlier passed through the Theerthamalai reserve Forest, has been changed and now would be formed on the outskirts of the forest.
The bench then reserved its orders on the petitions.
The Rs 10,000 crore Salem-Chennai expressway has been facing opposition from a section of locals, including farmers over fears of losing their land, besides environmentalists who are opposed to the felling of trees for the project.
The ambitious 277.3 km long eight-lane greenfield project connecting Salem and Chennai under the Centre's 'Bharatmala Pariyojana' scheme aims to cut travel time between the two cities by half to about two hours and 15 minutes.