PIL against Railway lines via Kodagu: High Court gives two weeks to Govt. to make its stand clear

Elephant in A Coffee Estate
Elephant in A Coffee Estate

Government has to either say Yes or No to the project or it must say that the project is under consideration or underway

NOTE: The Railway Ministry’s ‘advice’ to the Kerala government to ‘seek specific approval’ from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to carry out a survey for the proposed Thalassery-Mysuru Railway Line is not the real hurdle for the project. The Railways are merely clearing obstructions to the project that may be a ground for those who are wanting the project to be dropped and may make this a ground to go to a Court of Law. The Railways’ ‘advice’ only further confirms that the project is already under implementation. —KBG, Editor-in-Chief(Star of Mysore)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court has asked the State Government to produce documentary evidence to prove its contention that the government is not taking up the controversial two proposed Railway lines that passes through Kodagu.

The Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation petition against the Railway lines on July 25 (Wednesday) where the government advocate claimed that Karnataka is not taking up the projects. The Court has now given two weeks to the government to prove its claims.

The petition (WP 17990/2018) was filed on 24-4-2018 by President of Coorg Wildlife Society Col. (Retd) C.P. Muthanna who is also the Coordinator, Save Kodagu and Cauvery Campaign. The PIL had come for hearing on June 25 before a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari  that had directed the government to file its response by two weeks. The case, however, was heard a month later on July 25.

The respondents in the petition are Secretary, Ministry of Forests, Environment and Ecology, Ministry of Railways, Chief Secretaries of Karnataka and Kerala and Principal Chief Conservators of Forests, Karnataka and Kerala.

In his petition, Muthanna stated that the construction of two lines — one linking Thalassery in Kerala with Mysuru via Kodagu district and another linking Mysuru, Kushalnagar and Madikeri — will have disastrous consequences.

The petitioner contended that the said Railway line is also interconnected to Thalassery-Mysuru Railway Line project which shall connect and interconnect Karnataka and Kerala at the cost of severe damage to flora and fauna of Kodagu district. The Coorg Wildlife Society prayed the Court not to permit any such projects, either in the name of tourism or for commercial purposes.

The petitioner alleged that the entire railway project is a lobby controlled by the business and commercial tycoons of Kerala putting pressure on the Central Government to give a green signal and start this project without taking into consideration the severe ecological damage it could cause in Kodagu.

Arguing for the Karnataka government, its advocate said that the PIL was premature as the government has not taken up any such Railway projects nor it intends to do so. He argued that no decision or discussion has taken place between the governments of Kerala and Karnataka on the Railway projects.

However, B.R. Deepak, advocate for the petitioner told the Court that there were several documents obtained through RTI that prove that the work on the Railway lines was on and Karnataka has in principle agreed for the same.

The petitioner’s advocate presented before the Court the directive of the Kerala govt. that has ordered a survey of the Railway lines and the sanctioning of Rs. 45 lakh for the survey purpose. Also, the advocate quoted Muthanna’s letter written to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests highlighting how the Railway projects would destroy the eco-sensitive Kodagu district.

Considering the documentary evidence from the petitioner’s side, the High Court considered the same as ‘Cause of Action’ and directed the government’s advocate to produce documentary evidence to prove that Karnataka government has not initiated any work on the projects. He has to submit the same by two weeks.

Speaking to Star of Mysore, Muthanna said that the Karnataka government is now forced to spell out its stand. “Now the government must either say yes or no to the controversial projects. Or it must say that the projects are under consideration. It might be forced to file an affidavit in this regard,” he said.

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