Kerala HC Rejects Plea Against Road Widening; Says God Will Forgive Us if Religious Institutions Are Affected by Road Development Projects

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According to the Kerala High Court, the petitions had raised no valid point which proved mala-fide intentions or illegality on the part of the respondents.

The Writ Petition

Writ petitions were filed before the Kerala High Court challenging the acquisition of land for the purpose of widening of the National Highway-66 situated in Umayanallor Village, Thazhuthala and adjacent villages of Kollam District. According to the petitioners, the widening of the national highway was intruding on certain religious institutions and the residence of the petitioners.

Contentions in the Petition

In the original proposal pertaining to road widening, it was decided that land from both sides of the existing road would be acquired. However, the petitioners contended that the Government of Kerala had suggested a change in the alignment pertaining to the widening of the national highway so as to avoid interference with religious institutions and thereby save the institutions from the road widening process. According to the petitioner, the change in the alignment had led to the exclusion of a private mosque and that now the acquisition is being concentrated on the northern side of the National Highway, where the petitioners reside and where a few mosques and temples are situated. According to the petitioners, a curve was created by the new alignment merely to save the private mosque. However, it was contended by the authorities that no new curves were being introduced.

Observations of the High Court

The Kerala High Court relied on the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Union of India v. Kushala Shetty (2011) in which it was held that NHAI is a statutory body with expertise in the field of development and maintenance of National Highways; hence,

the Courts are not equipped to decide upon the feasibility of a project and whether the particular assignment would sub-serve the larger public interest.”

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The Court observed that the suggestions made by the Government of Kerala were mere requests; that the authorities had accepted the recommendations and tried their best to avoid religious institutions. Additionally, the Court observed that

For the development of the National Highway, if the religious institutions are affected, God will forgive us.”

Decision of the Court

The Kerala High Court held that the contentions of the petitioner could not be accepted as it contained no valid point. Accordingly, the petitions were dismissed by the Kerala High Court.

 

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