New Delhi: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court made the observation that the Centre does not need to obtain prior forest or environmental clearance before expressing the intention to acquire the land for building a National Highway. Additionally, the Centre may acquire any land it wishes to for the same purpose.
This observation was made in accordance with notifications issued under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Act 1956 when the Supreme Court was giving permission for the construction of the ₹10,000 crores, eight-lane Chennai-Salem highway. The construction of the highway is part of the Bharatmala Pariyojna–Phase-I project.
The SC stated that the power constitutionally rests with the Union: "Provisions in the Constitution unambiguously indicate that the legislative as well as executive power regarding all matters concerning and connected with a highway to be designated as a national highway, vests in Parliament, and the laws to be made by it in that regard. For the same reason, the complete executive power also vests within the Union."
The question has arisen due to the planned highway passing through a stretch of forest. However, the SC overruled this saying no prior environmental clearance was required.