SilverLine: HC questions legality of laying stones on pvt lands without prior notice

Kochi: Amid the protest against SilverLine project, Kerala High Court on Monday questioned the legality of the government's action to lay survey stones on private land without issuing prior notice. A single bench headed by Justice Devan Ramachandran asked whether the division bench had allowed the government to lay stones engraved with K-Rail.

The remark from the court came while hearing several petitions related to the SilverLine project. Projects should be carried out by following the legal aspects, the court said.

"The court is not against the project at any phase. However, the court cannot turn a blind eye toward the woes and concerns of the people. The survey procedures can continue as per the order of the division bench. The survey must be carried out by following the legal mechanism. The owner should be informed about the survey procedures on his or her property," the court said.

The high court also said that entering people's property to lay stones without prior notice or information would "startle" and "terrorise" them and asked whether that was the purpose behind the ongoing survey which has generated "so much controversy and unrest".

"Why should K-Rail insist on a pole of this nature? Are you trying to scare people? Do you give them prior notice before entering their property for a survey? Are you not required to do so? If the officials enter their property suddenly one day without prior information, it will certainly startle people.

"Is the purpose of the survey by K-Rail to startle and terrorise them? People are scared. It is your (government) haste which is causing the problem. You have reached a situation where so much controversy and unrest is going on," Justice Devan Ramachandran said.

The judge further said that such issues are not being seen during other projects in the country or state, especially in connection with constructing national highways where land on a much larger scale is sought to be acquired.

The observations by the court came during hearing of several pleas opposing the ongoing survey process as well as the type of survey stones laid by the K-Rail -- a joint venture of the Kerala government and the Railway Ministry for developing railway infrastructure in the southern state.

During the hearing, the state government informed the court that the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed some appeals challenging the order of a division bench of the high court giving the go ahead for the survey.

Responding to this information, Justice Ramachandran said that the survey can go on and that he was never against it to begin with.

"When I saw the survey being done in a particular manner, it caused concern," the judge said and asked why the concrete poles were being used instead of the survey marks stipulated under the law.

The state government said that the concrete poles were being used pursuant to an order issued by a director of K-Rail.

Justice Ramachandran, thereafter, asked the government to place before him any order passed by a K-Rail director giving the go ahead to use such poles despite a court order of December last year which said that the survey marks have to conform to the standards prescribed under Kerala Survey and Boundaries Rules.

The court also asked the state and the petitioners to find out whether the December 23, 2021 order has been set aside by any division bench of the high court and listed the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.

The Kerala government's ambitious SilverLine project is being opposed in various parts of the state with the general public as well as Congress-led UDF opposition and the BJP protesting against the survey wherever it is being conducted.

Women and children too were seen participating in the protests where agitators not only blocked K-Rail officials, supported by the police, from laying the concrete poles as part of the survey, they also removed the installed poles from several places.

The 530 kilometre long SilverLine semi-high speed rail corridor which starts from Thiruvananthapuram will have stoppages at Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode and Kannur before reaching Kasaragod. The entire journey from one end to the other is expected to take around four hours.

(With inputs from PTI)

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