'Some infirmities should not be a reason to forget or discard the public interest involved in the project'
Dismissing pleas by some residents against the acquisition and reclamation of paddy land for the construction of metro yard at Muttom, the Kerala High Court on Thursday observed that the important infrastructure project of the city such as metro rail should not be stalled by raising unnecessary controversies.
Justice A.M.Shaffique observed that “personal opinion, private interest, trivial issues or minimal damage to the environment should give way for larger public interest”.
The court said there might be some infirmities in the decision-making process. But such infirmities should not be a reason to forget or discard the public interest involved in the project.
The judge added that it was clear that this was an important project of the State as it was aimed at increasing the infrastructure facilities in the city and the State. Therefore, the project could not be stalled by raising unnecessary controversies.
According to the petitioners, N. Sudhakaran Pillai and another of Choornikkara panchayat, the paddy land at Muttam was being reclaimed without conducting any environmental impact assessment (EIA) study. The reclamation was in total violation of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wet Land Act. The petitioners sought to restrain the authorities from any further reclamation of paddy land.
The revenue authorities told the court that the total requirement of land for the metro yard was 23.6050 hectares of land. In fact, EIA study and social impact study had been carried out on the areas.
KMRL submitted that the EIA was not required for the metro rail project. But since the external funding agency has insisted on conducting it, the government got an EIA study conducted. In fact, the reclaimed land would be utilized for the construction of metro yard only.
The court pointed out that the paddy land was reclaimed on the recommendation of the local-level monitoring committee of the panchayat and after the EIA study. In fact, the EIA study was not mandatory for the Kochi metro project. Besides, the expert agencies such as DMRC were involved in the matter of selection of the land. As it was done with association of the professional experts, the court couldn’t interfere with the matter.