Chennai: The Madras High Court on Monday quashed the state government order restraining gas major GAIL India Ltd from implementing Kochi-Mangalore gas pipeline project passing through farm lands in seven districts of Tamil Nadu, holding that there is overwhelming public interest subsisting in its favour.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Rajesh Kumar Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan passed the order on a petition by GAIL against the order by state Industries Secretary on April 2 directing the agency to lay the pipeline along the national highways without affecting the agricultural lands following opposition from farmers.
Some 300 km of the Kochi-Kuttanad-Bangalore-Mangalore pipeline project passes through Coimbatore, Tirupur, Salem, Erode, Namakkal, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts in western Tamil Nadu and farmers there opposed it on the ground that it would affect their livelihood.
In their order, the Judges noted that supply of gas would achieve more industrialisation and infrastructure development besides reducing pollution levels which were beneficial to the people.
No doubt that the state should align to the mood and sentiments of the people and it was under obligation to protect their interest, but at the same time the larger public interest should also be taken into consideration, they said observing that it was not the first time such pipeline was being laid in the state.
The bench said materials produced by GAIL showed the state government prior to the impunged proceedings was more than a willing party and in fact it had extended its maximum cooperation and even constituted high level committee headed by top revenue officials for its implementation.
The 'Vision Tamil Nadu 2023' document published by the government also revealed the state government was very keen in establishing the gas grid to convert various districts and LNG terminals at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore each.
"The use of natural gas would also reduce pollution level and the scientific studies also disclose that is a clean and green fuel. There is overwhelming public interest subsisting in favour of this project," the Judges held.
They said the state government was in a position to convince the farmers and land owners about the benefit of the project and had adequate means to take care of the law and order problem and set aside the order.
GAIL in its petition had sought a direction to all respondents to facilitate the implementation of the project as per the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User) Act, 1962, in seven districts to ensure the completion of the project in a time-bound manner.