Security must trump green concerns: Supreme Court

Plea to quash clearance to widen Char Dham roads by felling trees

November 10, 2021 12:38 am | Updated 01:15 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Badrinath temple, one of the Char Dham shrines, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.

A view of the Badrinath temple, one of the Char Dham shrines, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday wondered the extent to which it can intervene on environmental grounds when the defence of the nation is at stake.

A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud was hearing a plea against the environmental clearance given to widen the Char Dham roads by felling trees.

The court referred to the recent skirmishes on the border with China.

“We cannot deny the fact that at such a height, the security of the nation is at stake. Can the highest constitutional court say that we will override the defence needs particularly in the face of recent events? Can we say that environment will triumph over the defence of the nation? Or we say that defence concerns be taken care of so that environmental degradation does not take place,” Justice Chandrachud asked senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for an NGO, Citizens for Green Doon.

The court said it was facing a serious predicament when the government is citing defence needs for the widening of the feeder roads.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said the roads need to be widened for transport of heavy military equipment like missile launchers and even tanks.

“The Forces have to take heavy vehicles, tanks, self-propelled artillery and troops to the Indo-China border... It is the specific need of the Armed Forces to defend the country against any possible external aggression at the northern border,” a government affidavit had said.

It had said that bottlenecks would delay deployment in emergency situations if feeder roads are not developed to requisite standards. The Army has been using these roads post the war with China in 1962.

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