The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday stayed the felling of trees for the Delhi-Dehradun Expressway project till November 26, even as Attorney General KK Venugopal argued that no project will be completed in this country if the submissions of the petitioner are accepted.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud passed the order on the appeal filed by the Citizens for Doon, an NGO, challenging the National Green Tribunal order passed on October 6 declining to interfere in the matter. Senior advocate Anita Shenoy represented the petitioner in the top court.
The bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath, noted that the petitioner has challenged the Stage-1 clearance, which was granted in September last year by the Environment Ministry for the stretches of the road forming part of the highway passing through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
The NGO contended that over 11,000 trees are proposed to be felled for the project. The top court gave the liberty to the appellants to move an appeal afresh before the NGT, challenging the order permitting felling of trees along the Delhi-Dehradun Expressway, as it set aside the tribunal's October 6 order. The top court said the tribunal was in error in rejecting the challenge to Stage-I clearance.
The AG vehemently argued against any stay on public projects and also presented a four-minute video elaborating the details of the project. He emphasised that all inquisitive clearances have been obtained for the project, adding that no project will be completed in this country if the submissions of the petitioner are accepted.
The bench noted that regarding the question of stay, "we are inclined to grant some breathing room to the appellants to move the tribunal where they may be in a position to urge all the submissions which are available to them to challenge the orders for the felling of trees".
The bench refrained from making any observation on the merits of the case, as it may preclude the rights and contentions of the parties.
It said, "However, we direct that the appellant would be at liberty to file an appeal and for that purpose there shall be an interim order restraining further felling of trees, which shall remain in operation until November 26."