STATE TIMES NEWS
SRINAGAR: While hearing a Public Interest Litigation by Civil Society Tral on Highway widening, a Division Bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul directed Government as well as Chairman to file updated status/compliance report.When PIL came-up for hearing, the Division Bench observed that in terms of order dated February 10, 2020, the Court directed, “By order dated December 11, 2019, we directed the Project Director, National Highways Authority of India, PIU-Srinagar, to remain present in person before the Court on next date of hearing, i.e., today. Today, when the matter came up for consideration, Purshotam Kumar, Project Director, National Highways Authority of India, is present in person along with status/ response on behalf of Authority, wherein it has been stated as under: Udhampur to Ramban Section: That four laning of Udhampur-Ramban Section of NH-1A (Now NH-44) from Km 67 to KM 89 and Km 130 to Km 151 under NHDP Phase-II (design Length = 40.07 Km) was allotted to M/s Gammon India Private Limited for an amount of Rs.1709.99 crore. The letter of intent was issued on September 23, 2015 with completion date as December 27, 2018. The scope of work includes 08 Nos. major bridges, 59 Nos. minor bridges, 492 box culverts, 2 Nos. tunnels length 888 m and 794 m. That there has been a delay in execution of work because of the orders passed by High Court at Jammu in the case of 7 villages located from Nashri to Ramban, and land was made available to contractor from months of May to July, 2018. The additional land for Chanderkot Bypass is yet to be made available to the contractor as land acquisition proceedings are under process. There are 69 structures in ROW still existing, due to which the work could not be taken so for. That out of 10 HT towers only 3 have been shifted till date and 7 are still standing on ground which is major reason for delay of the project. That the land for construction of tunnel was cleared after one and half years of award of the project i.e., June 8, 2017. That some vigilance case for felling of trees in Chanderkote area is still not cleared, which is also causing delay in execution of the work. That a Mosque near main bridge at Ramban is still not dislocated as case was discussed during meeting chaired by Advisor to Government on April 5, 2019 in which Deputy Commissioner Ramban was directed to submit cabinet note, the Deputy Commissioner, Ramban submitted the same, but further action is still pending. Due to all factors, progress could not be achieved upto due date. The time required for completion of work at said stretch would at least take 2 years after clearance of all hindrances as discussed.”“In Ramban to Banihal Section: Four laning of Ramban to Banihal Section of NH-1A (Now-NH-44) from Km 131 to Km 187 under NHDP Phase-II (Design Length = 32.10 Km) was allotted to M/s HCC Limited for an amount of Rs.1783 Crores. The letter of intent was issued on September 23, 2015 with completion date June 26, 2019. The scope of work include 06 Nos. of major bridges, 21 Nos. minor bridges, 302 box culverts, 6 Nos. of tunnels with total length 3007 m. That immediately after the appointed date, stay order was granted by the High Court at Jammu which was finally vacated in October, 2017 with a direction for initiating land acquisition proceedings a fresh for village Seri Marog (Length 4.5 Kms). Some judicial orders have also been received from the Court of Judicial Magistrate, Ramban of which the reference shall be made at the time of arguments of the case, which has also caused delay in execution of the work. It is also submitted that the land for construction of tunnel had partially been made available to contractor on December 09, 2016 and completely on September 14, 2017. That a number of trees are coming under acquired land and their cutting is difficult during continuous movement of traffic on National Highway. Therefore, after prolonged correspondence of NHAI and on the directions of Divisional Commissioner Jammu the contractor was enabled to the hill cutting of trees at such locations. However, as on date, 1199 trees are yet to be cut and removed from site by State Forest Corporation. That it is also submitted that contractor requested for providing a muck dumping yard for dumping of excavated muck from the road/ tunnel for which contractor identified 6 Nos. of site at different locations along alignment in forest land, out of which only 3 got approved by FAC on July 25, 2019 but further clearance is still awaited. That is also submitted that there are 38 Nos. of towers which are to be shifted by TLMD Department, the estimate for which was approved on October 22, 2018 but till date contractor has not been mobilised. The payment of land required for the shifting of the 38 Nos. of towers (out of which Nos. fall on forest land) has been made but final approval is awaited. That apart from this, after doing excavation by the contractor at different stretches with aggregate length of 14.94 Km, the existing highway at times get closed due to occurrence of landslides at different landslide prone areas. Taking note of this the Chairman, NHAI visited project site along with the senior engineers and ordered 3 Member Expertised Committee in the field of landslides to submit report/solutions. After visiting the site and meeting with senior engineers at different levels, the expert committee submitted its report in which they advised NHAI to consider change in alignment by way of introduction of few changes in form of tunnels/viaduct after studying the feasibility of such changes at this stage. In view of report, Project Director, Ramban has approached DPR consultant to work on the proposal in line as advised by the expert committee along with financial proposal for approval of competent authority especially for the stretch where cutting of hill slope is yet to be undertaken by the contractor. Apart from the above, the proposal for the stabilization of the bill slope at trouble some locations is also being worked out for site specific problems and solutions thereof. That it is expected that the contractor may require atleast 3 years for completion of balance scope of work after encumbrances free site is made available to them. Maintenance of Existing Road: That as per contract agreement, the contractor for widening of roads, it is a contractual obligation of the contractor to maintain the existing highway for the traffic. As the new lane which is under construction is on uphill side of existing road and the culverts constructed in this lane flow directly to the existing carriageway which causes damages to the existing carriageway frequently. The same were repaired repeatedly. The existing drain is also damaged at some places which is also being reconstructed during reconstruction/ strengthening of existing carriage way from time to time,” they observed.Having gone through the averments made in the status report/ response on behalf of National Highways Authority of India detailing out the various difficulties being faced by Authority in the process of completion of the works subject matter of instant PIL, the Division Bench directed, “Chief Secretary of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir shall convene a meeting of the Commissioners /Secretaries to Government, Revenue Department; Power Development Department; and Forest Department and ascertain the difficulties, concerning the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, being faced by the National Highways Authority of India in the competition of the entire project, as detailed out by them in their status report/ response and extracted hereinabove, and issue all possible directions to the concerned authorities for their removal at the earliest. The Commissioner/ Secretary to Government, Revenue Department, who shall be the Nodal Officer in the aforesaid process, shall place the compliance of this order before this Court by the next date of hearing. The National Highways Authority of India, through its Chairman, shall, by the next date of hearing, also update their status report/ response by supplying all the details regarding pending cases before any wing of this High Court as well as the other subordinate Courts alongwith copies of all orders passed thereon from time to time restraining the Authority to proceed ahead in the matter, mention whereof has been made by the Authority in its status report/ response; and also believe that the existing condition of the roads, stretching right from Udhampur to Chenani and Chenani to Banihal, is precariously shabby and that the concerned Contractors are not maintaining the said roads as per the required level. We hope and trust that all possible efforts are taken by the concerned authorities in the Government of Jammu and Kashmir as well as in the National Highways Authority of India so as to redress this concern. Let the matter come up for further consideration on March 9, 2020.”Division Bench comprising Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul after perusal of pleadings on record, felt that no effective progress is, in fact, made with regard to aforesaid directions passed by this Court and directed that Sr. AAG B A Dar, the, to update the status of the compliance of directions passed by this Court on 10th of February, 2020 (supra) by the next date of hearing. DB further observed that insofar as the aforesaid directions passed by this Court qua National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), N A Baba, the counsel, incidentally available in the Court, submitted that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is now represented by Abdul Majeed Zargar, Advocate, who is not available and directed Registry to send a copy of this order to the Chairman, National Highways Authority of India, so as to ensure filing of updated status/ compliance report as also appearance of counsel on behalf of Authority on next date of hearing.
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