The Madras High Court on Monday gave the green signal for implementation of GAIL India Ltd.’s natural gas pipeline project which is to pass through seven districts in the State.

Allowing a petition by the company challenging a State government’s letter of April this year, the First Bench, comprising Chief Justice R.K. Agrawal and M. Sathyanarayanan said there was overwhelming public interest in favour of the project. As the project would ultimately be connected with the natural gas grid, it would benefit the State to a very large extent, the court said.

The pipeline is to be laid from Kochi terminal to Bangalore. About 300 km is to pass through Coimbatore, Tirupur, Salem, Erode, Namakkal, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.

The company had already invested Rs.685 crore in Tamil Nadu out of the total project cost of about Rs.3000 crore. There were protests by land owners in the seven districts. Following this, on April 2 this year, the State government directed the company to lay the pipeline along the National Highway without affecting agricultural lands. It also asked the company to close all the existing trenches made for laying the pipeline and to pay compensation to farmers whose trees and structures were demolished for the project.

Challenging the government’s communication, GAIL, through the Additional Solicitor-General, P.Wilson, sought a direction to the authorities to facilitate the laying of the pipeline in the seven districts and ensure its completion.

Noting that there was overwhelming public interest in favour of the project, the court said that the State government was in a position to convince the farmers and land owners about the project benefits and also had adequate means to take care of law and order.

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