Salem Expressway project: HC says don't use police force

By PTI Published on Jul 19, 2018 05:45 PM IST

Chennai: The Madras High Court today observed that using police force against people protesting against the Salem-Chennai expressway is avoidable if they are sensitised to the fact that proceedings planned to be undertaken are under the provisions of the National Highways Act.

The division bench, comprising justices T S Sivagnanam and Bhavani Subbaroyan, made the observation when a batch of petitions from several land owners apprehending forceful dispossession of their property came up for hearing before it. The court then posted the matter for hearing to August 2.

Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan requested the court to grant time to file a counter on the matter. The bench, passing an interim order on the petitions, said it appeared as of now that the apprehension of the land owners was that they would be forcefully dispossessed.

It noted that media reports have been stating that police force was being used on land owners who raised their voice against the land acquisition proceedings. A counter filed by the director of the project earlier showed that the project was still in the initial stages.

"Under such circumstances, we fail to understand why there should be use of force. It may be true that if the protests turn violent, then the officials may have to request intervention of the police," the bench said.

Advocate General Vijay Narayan submitted that the question of taking over the land would arise only after declaration of acquisition in accordance with Section 3(A) 1 of the National Highways Act. He said since the project was still in the initial stages, there was no imminent threat of dispossession of land. "This court expressed its view on the aspect and the advocate general submitted that necessary instructions will be issued to the authorities and will call for a report in this regard."

Later, petitioner's counsel submitted that the power to take possession under the National Highways Act is vested with the central government.