New Delhi: In a clear rebuff to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear that the Eastern Peripheral Expressway constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) cannot wait indefinitely for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration and it should be inaugurated on or before May 31 and thrown open to the public from June 1.
The expressway, which is aimed at decongesting Delhi, was supposed to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister on April 29 but he could not do so as he was busy in the Karnataka elections. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta is hearing a PIL filed by activist MC Mehta on measures to curb pollution in the capital.
During the hearing on Thursday, when counsel informed the court that the expressway was not opened due to Prime Minister’s pre-occupation in Karnataka elections, Justice Lokur told the counsel for NHAI, “Why don’t you open it and inaugurate it later. The High Court of Meghalaya is functioning for the past five years without a formal inauguration.”
Justice Lokur said, “You cannot pass on the buck saying the PM is not available. We can’t wait indefinitely for the Prime Minister [to inaugurate it].”
In a brief order the bench said, “The NHAI shall take formal steps for inauguration of the project on or before May 31, failing which it shall be made open to the public. Delay is not in the interest of the people of Delhi. If it is not inaugurated it should made be open from June 1.”
Amicus curiae Aparajita Singh told the court that contrary to the assurance by the Additional Solicitor General AS Nadkarni at the last hearing that the project would be inaugurated on April 29, no measure so far had been undertaken for throwing open the highway for regular traffic
Counsel for the NHAI said the delay was on account of the non-availability of the Prime Minister who is busy with various other schedules. According to the counsel, the NHAI had also sought time from the PMO for its inauguration this month, but they were yet to get any official confirmation from his office.
The 135 kilometre six-lane highway is expected to decongest Delhi by diverting around two lakh vehicles. It would also help in tackling pollution in the national capital.
The Eastern and Western Peripheral expressways were planned in 2006 following the top court's order to build a ring road outside the national capital for channeling non-Delhi bound traffic....