COURT ON SUO MOTO Vs. SECRETARY MINISTRY OF SURFACE TRANSPORT
LAWS(SIK)-2010-10-12
HIGH COURT OF SIKKIM
Decided on October 11,2010

Court On Suo Moto Appellant
VERSUS
Secretary Ministry Of Surface Transport,The Secretary, Ministry Of Home Affairs,The Secretary, Ministry Of Defence,Secretary, Ministry Of Finance,,Secretary, Ministry Of Environment And Forest Respondents

JUDGEMENT

WANGDI,J - (1.) THIS Public Interest Litigation (in short "PIL") was taken up suo moto by this Court being distressed by the poor conditions of the National Highway 31-A, the North Sikkim Highway and the Gangtok-Nathula Road (Jawaharlal Nehru Marg) that had persisted for a considerable period of time causing grave inconvenience for the smooth movement of traffic which was widely reported in local newspapers. Judicial notice was taken by this Court of the Central Government having provided sufficient funds for upgradation and widening of the roads in view of the strategic importance of the State of Sikkim. This Court was concerned with the fact that all these roads provided the only means of communication of the State with rest of the country, particularly, the supply of necessary resources for the Army located at the difficult frontier areas and the convenient accessibility of the people of the State to the other parts of the country. It was noticed, that the work of the upgradation and widening of these roads was taking place at a painfully slow pace when, considering the national security, it ought to have been done with greater rapidity.
(2.) UPON notice being issued to the respondents, Colonel Rakshvir, Director Works, Project Swastik for and on behalf of the respondent no.1, i.e., Secretary, Ministry of Surface Transport, Government of India, respondent no.2, i.e., Director General Border Roads, Seema Sadak Bhawan, New Delhi, respondent no.3, i.e., Chief Engineer, Project Swastik and respondent no.5, i.e., Ministry of Defence, Govt. of India, filed an affidavit dated 16-07-2010 on 19-07-2010, highlighting the nature of various works on the roads concerned and the hindrances faced by the organisation in expediting them. On 25-08-2010, the said Colonel Rakshvir, Director Works, Project Swastik, sought for three weeks' time to file the time schedule for the execution of the works on all the Highways inclusive of the time required for getting permission from the competent statutory authorities, i.e., Ministry of Environment and Forest, etc. Having allowed to do so, an affidavit dated 23-09-2010 was filed duly affirmed by him. In the said affidavit, shorn of the other facts, the following time schedules have been set for the different roads:- "................................................. ROAD SEVOKE-GANGTOK (NH31A) ....................................................... 15. The Probable Date of Completion of works on NH 31A of sanctioned works after clearances from Forest, Land Revenue land and shifting of assets of BSNL, Electricity, Water Supply, Private property and encroachment and clearance from all encumbrances will be as given under:- a) Phase I (Improvement of Trouble spots) - 12 months b) Phase II (Full width widening) - Four years ................................................................. JAWAHARLAL NEHRU MARG (JNM) ............................................................................. 19. The work was sanctioned for all Phases before receipt of FCLA. The work could only be undertaken after receipt of FCLA. Work in Phase IVA has been outsourced. The work in all phases of JNM is likely to be completed as per schedule i.e. 2012. The present status/progress is as given below:- S/No. Phases Date of Length of road Receipt % PDC sanction From of FCLA Progress To a) Phase I Jan 07 Km Km Jan 08 43.49% 2012 24.25 51.385 b) Phase II Apr 07 Km Km Jan 08 61.49% 2012 0.00 5.666 c) Phase III Jan 07 Km Km Jul 09 67.10% 2012 6 0.00 9.903 (6.80 existing) d) Phase Mar 09 Km Km. Oct 09 11.86% 2012 IVA 0.00 19.350 (6.80 existing) e) Phase Mar 09 Km Km Oct 09 3.96% 2012 IVB 19.350 24.36 ....................................................................................... GANGTOK-CHUNGTHANG ROAD (NSH) ....................................................................................... 24. Being the only axis to North Sikkim and keeping in view the user convenience, the work of upgradation has been planned in phases. The details are as given under: S/ No Name of work Location Percentage Remarks progress From To a) Upgradation of 3.00 30.00 91 existing road to NHSL. b) Upgradation to 30.00 68.00 Planned in Revenue CI-9 E. year 2011-12 Land to be and onwards acquired (except Km (Planned 56.10 to Km under 58.00 where SARDP) work under GS in progress) c) Upgradation to 68.00 84.60 Planned in CI-9 E. year 2010-11 and onwards d) Upgradation of 84.60 95.50 75 existing road to CI-9 E. 25. The PDC of different road length of the road is as given under :- a) Upgradation of existing road to NHSL - 2012 (from Km 3.00 to 30.00) (from Tashi View Point to Seven Sister Fall) b) Upgradation to CI-9 E - Three (from Km 30.00 to 68.00) years (Seven Sister Fall to Mangan) after all clearances c) Upgradation to CI-9 E - 2012 (from 56.10 to 58.00) (Trijunction Road Singtam, Dikchu Road/ Penangl to Rangrang Bridge) d) Upgradation to CI-9 E - Three (from 68.00 to 84.60) years (Mangan to Toong bridge) after clearances acquisition of Revenue Land and others e) Upgradation of existing road - 2012 to CI-9 E (Km 84.60 to 95.50) (Toong to Chungthang) ................................................" We have noticed that the major reasons for the delay in the execution of the works indicated in the affidavit are the want of timely grant of necessary clearances under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and the approval of the DPRs by the concerned authorities. We are aware of the fact that before such clearances are given, the authorities are required to ensure compliance of various formalities and conditions. However, considering the importance of the roads in question, we expect that those would be expedited by according the priority it deserves in order to ensure execution of the works on schedule.
(3.) THE constraints and impediments being faced by the respondent no.3 in the execution of the works caused by the extreme weather conditions and hostile terrain of the region are well-appreciated. But those are factors that are not new and, considering their experience, the respondent no.3 would be expected to evolve necessary strategies to overcome them. It is noticed that after initiation of these proceedings the pace of the works have picked up considerably for which we record our appreciation. Since the monsoon has now receded and the period hereafter till the month of May, 2011, is generally conducive for uninterrupted execution of the works, we deem it appropriate to direct that they are taken up with utmost urgency so that at least those portions for which the necessary clearances have been obtained and funds provided for are completed by mustering the necessary manpower and machinery. In the meanwhile, we hope that the necessary statutory clearances will be granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, the respondent no.8, and the Department of Environment and Forests, Government of Sikkim, the respondent no.9. We also repose faith upon the Ministry of Defence, Government of India, the respondent no.6 and Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, the respondent no.10, that they will finalise the DPRs submitted by the respondent no.3. We are certain that they will appreciate the concern and anxiety of this Court of the grave public importance expressed in these proceedings.;


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