1 Sep 2023 9:19 AM GMT
The South-Western Railway has submitted an affidavit before the Karnataka High Court stating that it will submit a revised proposal seeking permission for laying of Hubli-Ankola Railway Line Project after mitigating the gaps and deficiencies in the earlier proposal as is pointed out by the National Board for Wildlife. The affidavit filed by the Deputy Chief Engineer states, “South...
The South-Western Railway has submitted an affidavit before the Karnataka High Court stating that it will submit a revised proposal seeking permission for laying of Hubli-Ankola Railway Line Project after mitigating the gaps and deficiencies in the earlier proposal as is pointed out by the National Board for Wildlife.
The affidavit filed by the Deputy Chief Engineer states, “South Western Railways (SWR), Hubli, shall follow the directions issued by NBWL and shall prepare a mitigation plan for the Hubli-Ankola Railway Line project, in consultation with Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun and follow any other directives of NBWL and MOEF & CC, and shall commence the work only after getting all the clearances/approvals as required under law."
Previously, the Court had directed the National Board For Wildlife to carry out a survey and make an assessment of the effect, on the wildlife, of laying down a railway line between Hubballi-Ankola, on the wildlife. It had remarked that development work is to be carried out, however, endeavour should be to protect the wildlife.
A division bench of Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice M G S Kamal said, “In our opinion, by accepting the statements made in the affidavit dated 23.08.2023 by the Deputy Chief Engineer, Construction-I, South-Western Railway, Hubli, the controversy can be set at rest.”
Following which it said, “Accordingly, by accepting the statements made in the affidavit dated 23.08.2023 as an undertaking to this Court, these writ petitions are disposed of.”
Among the batch of petitions filed, one is by Project Vruksha Foundation contending that the 14th meeting of the State board recommending/approving wildlife clearance for the construction of 168-KM new broad gauge railway line was vitiated by abuse of discretion and non application of mind.
The petitioner had earlier argued that the decision of the Chairman is solely based on the pro-project arguments forwarded by his special invitees, during the 14th meeting of the state board.
The special invites included Minister for Large and Medium Scale Industries, Jagadish Shettar, Minister of Labour and Sugar, Shivaram Hebbar, R V Deshpande, MLA and former minister for large and medium scale industries and the Chief Secretary of the state, who all are not members of the board, the petitioner said.
The petition had stated that the presence of such special invitees vitiates the proceedings of the meeting as it amounts to violation of Rule 9 of the Karnataka State Board for Wildlife Rules, 2006, which only allows people with experience and expertise in wildlife conservation as special invitees. It is estimated that around 2.2 lakh trees will have to be cut for the project.
The plea also said that the project area falls in the Eco-sensitive zone of the Kali Tiger reserve also known as Anshi-dandeli tiger reserve in the Western Ghats and cuts across the elephant and tiger corridor. The project passes through the Western Ghats which was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012.
The court had by its order dated June 18, 2020 by way of interim relief had directed that no further steps shall be taken on the decision taken by the State Board for Wildlife to allow diversion of 595.64 hectares of forest land for constructing railway line between Hubballi and Ankola.
The plea prayed for quashing the decision taken in the 14th meeting of the state board for wildlife recommending wildlife clearance to the project. Direct the Standing Committee of National Board For Wildlife not to consider the said decision as the final recommendation of the Karnataka SWB in their subsequent meetings.
Case Title: PROJECT VRUKSHA FOUNDATION v. STATE BOARD FOR WILDLIFE (SBWL)
Case No: WRIT PETITION NO. 8067 OF 2020 (GM-RES-PIL) C/W WRIT PETITION NO. 8181 OF 2020 (GM-RES-PIL) & WRIT PETITION NO. 12132 OF 2020 (GM-RES-PIL
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 337
Date of Order: 24-08-2023
Appearance: Senior Advocate Nandakumar C K for Advocate Raghuram Cadambi. Advocate Nikhil Kurgod. Advocate Anu Chengappa P for Petitioners.
AGA Niloufer Akbar for R1-R2.
CGC Shivakumar S for R3 to R6.
Advocate R G Kolle for R7 to R9
Click Here To Read/Download Order