Supreme Court slams Tamil Nadu for stalling gas pipeline project

The bench thereby upheld a Madras high court judgment giving its nod for implementation of the Rs 3,000 crore project.

New Delhi: Observing that obstruction of a Central government project by a state will amount to breakdown of constitutional machinery, the Supreme Court on Tuesday permitted Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) to implement its natural gas pipeline project cutting across seven districts in Tamil Nadu.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices A.K. Sikri and Ms. R. Banumathi slammed the state government for stalling the project by supporting the farmers’ agitation because it involved votes.

The bench thereby upheld a Madras high court judgment giving its nod for implementation of the Rs 3,000 crore project. The pipeline is to be laid between Kochi terminal, Kuttanad, Bengaluru and Mangalore. About 300 km in Tamil Nadu is to pass through Coimbatore, Tirupur, Salem, Erode, Namakkal, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. The Bench held that Tamil Nadu has no legal jurisdiction or competence to direct GAIL to alter the alignment after the expert committee had ruled that laying of pipelines along the national highways was not technically feasible. That apart once the right of user being validly acquired by GAIL, there is no question of nullifying or negating such vesting of lands in favour of GAIL.

The CJI told additional advocate general Subramonium Prasad for the state “we are not against farmers. But you can’t prevent the gas pipeline project which is in national interest. If you (state) have any problem you should have taken up the matter with the Centre, but you have no authority to direct GAIL to alter the alignment. If a state government obstructs a Central project (through GAIL) it will amount to breakdown of constitutional machinery.”

Senior counsel Dhruv Mehta for GAIL pointed out that out of 310 km length the pipeline had already been laid in 200 km and Rs 685 cr had been spent. GAIL was willing to pay higher compensation to farmers, he said. The CJI pointed out that the State all along supported the project, but what happened subsequently is a populist move. You supported farmers agitation against the project because votes are involved. You have gone by the sentiments of farmers. Mr Prasad said the state asked GAIL to realign the project as the livelihood of over 5,500 farmers is affected.

Taking into consideration the hardship of farmers, the bench directed the state government to revise the guideline value of lands in the seven districts as on January 1, 2016. After the guideline value is determined, GAIL will pay 10 per cent of the value as compensation and an additional 30 per cent of the amount so determined.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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