Kochi, India (Urban Transport News): The Kerala High Court, in an interim order, has stayed all further proceedings of erecting concrete structures for the 531-km Thiruananthpuram-Kasargod Semi High Speed Rail (SilverLine) project. The order issued on January 12, 2022, was on a petition filed by three residents of Kottayam district.
The petitioners had opposed putting up large concrete poles to mark the land surveyed for the SilverLine project saying it was in violation of the Survey and Boundaries Act and these structures were blocking access to various individuals' properties. The petitioners, whose land would be acquired for the project, belong to three different parts of the district.
Projects of the "magnitude" like that of SilverLine "cannot be hurried" or "completed on war cries", rather they have to be carried out in accordance with the law if they need to have any legitimacy, the Kerala High Court said to the state government. The remarks by Justice Devan Ramachandran came while hearing several pleas challenging the manner in which the state and the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd (K-Rail) were carrying out land surveys in connection with the Kerala government's ambitious semi high-speed rail project.
Dinesh Rao, counsel for the K-Rail, submitted to the court that more than 2,834 concrete poles have been laid for the project, pursuant to the survey being conducted for the purposes of the proposed third and fourth railway line through Kerala. He also submitted that an interim order of the court - in December 2021- is being followed and as per that, survey stones that comply with the standards under Rule 3 of the Kerala Survey and Boundaries Rules, 1964 alone are now being installed.
Justice Ramachandran said, "You messed it up by doing this. This issue rose because of your haste. You have obstructed access to homes. What you have done is egregiously improper as per this court. Surveys can be conducted for any project, but it has to be as per the law.”
"If you start laying such large, leviathan poles for each project, it would be difficult to move around in the state," the court added.
The Kerala High Court on December 24, 2021, had directed the state government to refrain from placing big survey stones with the marking 'K-Rail' and taking possession of properties belonging to the landowners for the K-Rail project. The High Court had also said that the revenue and survey officials can go ahead with the survey under the Kerala Survey and Boundaries Rules.
Dinesh Rao's submission was countered by OV Maniprasad, counsel for the petitioners. He pointed out that no survey stone can be installed by the K-Rail, but only by the competent Survey Officer; and that too, following the procedure under the rules and prayed that the 'offending stones' already installed be removed.
After the state government and K-Rail sought time for a detailed hearing of the issues raised in the pleas, the court listed the matter on January 20, 2022, and directed that till the next date, survey stones will be installed as per the rules, by the competent authority and of the prescribed size.
The court also directed K-Rail to inform the court what it proposes to do with the 2,834 concrete poles, which they have already installed, which prima facie appear not to be in conformity with the specifications mentioned in the Rules.
The project has been opposed by environmentalists over the huge cost and its impact on ecology. The local residents have also opposed the land acquisition. The government has come out with an outreach program to convince the stakeholders.
The estimated project cost of the proposed Thiruananthpuram-Kasargod Semi High Speed Rail (SilverLine) project is Rs 63,941 crore. This will connect Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod with 11 stations within Kerala.