Green Minute News
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday extended the interim relief granted on 18th of last month when it had stayed the decision of the State Wildlife Board which had approved India’s most controversial and ecologically disastrous project, the Hubballi-Ankola Rail Line Project.
Earlier, the High Court had sent notices to all concerned departments on the decision of the Karnataka State Board of Wildlife to clear the controversial 168 KM long broad gauge Hubballi-Ankola Rail Project. This project envisages the diversion of a whopping 596 hectares of forest land and felling of 2.2 lakh trees. On March 20, the state wildlife board had hurriedly cleared the project and forwarded it to the National Board of Wildlife for approval, overruling the majority decision which had conclusively rejected the project in their 13th meeting held on 9th March, 2020.
Further, the High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Sreenivas Abhay Oka and Justice Nagaprasanna turned down the plea of Assistant Advocate General to give a fixed date of hearing on the case as he said the matter was urgent. Observing the absence of respondents in the court, the Chief Justice said, “Withdraw the decision on Hubballi-Ankola Rail Line and this ends the matter. There is no urgency on this issue.”
RULE NISI ISSUED
Speaking to Green Minute, Sreeja Chakraborty, advocate appearing for the petitioner said, “The High Court issued rule nisi which means rule or order upon condition that is to become absolute unless cause is shown to the contrary. Which means the onus is on the State to come up with their response defending such an un-defendable decision, unless that is done, the interim stay will act as a final decision of the court.”
Chakraborty added, “The Karnataka State Board for Wildlife also cannot conduct any re-meeting, cause the Board cannot sit on an appeal of its final decision of rejecting the Hubballi-Anlola Rail Line project taken on 9th March and therefore, this is the very basis of the PIL.”
Last month, a PIL was filed by Vijay Nishant, Urban Conservationist, Project Vruksha Foundation questioning the decision of the Karnataka State Board of Wildlife’s to grant approval for the project despite it being rejected by the board conclusively in its meeting on 9th March. Apart from this, the Project was rejected not only by the Board itself but also others – central and state agencies many times.
Another petitioner Giridhar Kulkarni too had filed a PIL which was heard on June 22 and the same interim relief granted by the High Court.
Raising objections to the proceedings of the state wildlife board meeting, Vijay Nishanth, petitioner had said the decision taken by the Board Chairman (chief minister) was without due care and caution and ignoring the objections raised by majority of the board members. The decision of the chairman was solely based on pro-project arguments forwarded by the “four Special Invitees” (Jagdish Shettar, Shivram Hebbar, R V Deshpande and Vijay Bhaskar) who vitiated the proceedings of the 14th meeting of Board.