The Supreme Court on Friday directed GAIL India Ltd to maintain status quo on its Rs.3,400-crore Kochi-Kuttanad-Bangalore-Mangalore natural gas pipeline project in Tamil Nadu, while strongly pitching for protecting farmers’ interests.

The apex court asked the project executors to explore the possibility of using land along the national highway.

“Why do you want to go into farmers’ house? It is very improper. You are only asking for farmers land,” a Bench comprising Chief Justice P.Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and M.Y.Eqbal observed.

While issuing notices to GAIL India and other stakeholders, asking them to respond within four weeks to the objections raised by the Tamil Nadu government and farmers from the State, the Bench said, “In the meantime, it is directed that status quo be maintained as of today.”

Posting the matter for further hearing on February 17, the Bench asked GAIL India to inform the court about the land required along the national highway for the project. “You have to tell how much land will be required on both sides of the national highway,” the Bench said and asked the project executors to safeguard the interests of farmers.

The Tamil Nadu government and the farmers’ association had moved the apex court challenging a Madras High Court order, which had quashed a notification of the State government prohibiting GAIL India from implementing the project passing through agricultural lands in seven districts of the State. Tamil Nadu’s plea was made by Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi. Additional Solicitor General L. Nageshwar Rao tried to impress upon the Bench about the national importance of the project.– PTI

Farmers welcome order

Staff Reporter from Krishnagiri writes

Welcoming the interim stay, P. Shanmugham, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, the farmers’ wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), told The Hindu that it would still amount to only an “interim relief’’ to the affected farmers. Mr. Shanmugam said the Centre should instruct GAIL to lay the lines along national highways, instead of cutting through farm lands.

S.A. Chinnasamy, president of Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, urged the State government to pursue the case further to get a permanent solution for the farmers. Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary G.K. Nagaraj said the pipelines could be laid along highways, as was done in Karnataka and Kerala.

GAIL should rework its project

Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi general secretary E.R. Easwaran said GAIL should rework its project.