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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Tuesday, 21 September 2021 4.17 AM IST

HC dismisses pleas, challenging land acquisition for National Highways

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KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday dismissed a batch of pleas challenging the land acquisition for National Highways affecting some places of worship in Kollam district, observing that 'God will forgive us'.

Observing that no development activities can be implemented in the country without difficulty to a section of citizens, the Court said, 'For the development of National Highways in the state, if religious institutions are affected, God will forgive us.' The court said whether there is house erected on the proposed alignment in question, or a temple, mosque or grave, which will be affected by the acquisition, is not a ground for dropping acquisition proceedings for a public purpose.

'Everybody will feel bad when their land is being bulldozed in connection with land acquisition. Without difficulty to a section of the citizens, no development activities can be implemented in the Country.

Difficulties are part of development. When the development of the country is the object, citizens should neglect their minor difficulties', the court said.

Justice P V Kunhikannan referred to couple of famous lines in a Malayalam film song penned by noted lyricist Sreekumaran Thambi, which reads 'Mannilum vinnilum thoonilum thurumbilum daivamirikunnu...' 'I am not a person to translate these lines. But for this judgment, English translation is almost like this.

'The God almighty is omnipresent. He exists on Earth, in the sky, in pillars, and in the rust. He is the embodiment of kindness and dwells in the hearts of all, as a light of kindness.' 'For the development of the National Highway, if the religious institutions are affected, God will forgive us. God will protect the petitioners, the authorities, and also the author of this judgment. God will be with us,' the Court said.

The court said when the acquisition is for a public purpose, the citizens should cooperate with the same.

The judge said he was not saying that the difficulties pointed out by the petitioners were not genuine. But the NHA had said they are not in a position to accept their suggestions due to several reasons.

'No specific mala fides are alleged in these writ petitions against the National Highway authorities for adopting the present alignment', the court said.

Referring to the state government's request to the authorities to avoid religious institutions while acquiring land as per the NH Act, 1956, the court said this is only a request to avoid religious institutions, wherever possible.

'I think the National Highway Authorities accepted that recommendation in its spirit and did their level best to avoid religious institutions.

Unless there is patent illegality or mala fides, this Court is not in a position to interfere with an alignment finalised by the National Highway Authority. Therefore, I am not in a position to accept the contentions of the petitioners in these writ petitions', the court said.

It said the country has now launched on an ambitious program of all-around economic advancement to make it's economy competitive in the world market.

To improve the economy, available infrastructure in the country has to be developed. National Highways are necessary for free transportation of vehicles and goods, the judge said.

He opined that one of the needs of the country are National Highways with sufficient width and straight roads, so that citizens, businessmen, industrialists and people from all walks of life can use them.

'In such a situation, if this court starts to interfere in acquisition proceedings of the National Highway on the basis that there is a curve or there is a Mosque or there is a Temple or there is a School, the acquisition proceedings could not be completed', the court said.

It said unless there are mala fides or patent illegality, acquisition proceedings cannot be interfered with by the writ court, invoking powers under Article 226 of the Constitution.

'The vehement argument of the petitioners is that if the proposed alignment is accepted, that will destroy two mosques and two temples,' the court said.

The petitioners alleged that the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) neglected the state government's suggestion to bring some change in the alignment to save religious institutions in a few villages in Kollam district while acquiring land for the widening of NH-66.

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