Centre refutes NGO’s claim of ‘bench avoidance’ in Chardham project case

K.K. Venugopal.

New Delhi, (Asian independent) The Centre on Thursday strongly objected in the Supreme Court the claims of an NGO stating that it was involved in ‘bench avoidance in a case connected to road widening in the Chardham highway project.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheswari took note of Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s contention in the matter and said the court did not ask the NGO to file any written submissions in the matter.

The bench emphasised that it had only asked the parties to place before it the relevant orders connected to the matter.

Venugopal, at the beginning of the hearing, submitted, “I strongly object to the written submissions given by the petitioner.”

The NGO had claimed in a note that the government is engaged in bench avoidance.

The strategic Chardham highway project aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath — in Uttarakhand.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, also appearing in the case, submitted that the court should look into the reasons for which the NGO made such allegations. He emphasised that the matter is connected to the construction of strategic roads leading to the China border.

“A convenience compilation has also been filed by the Union of India. Let the matter be listed on Tuesday, i.e., May 18. Let the papers be placed before the Chief Justice of India for assignment of appropriate bench to hear this matter,” the top court said in its order.

Venugopal had submitted that because of urgency in the matter as the strategic border roads need to be constructed urgently, the matter should be taken up early.

Citing the allegations of bench avoidance in the note of the petitioner NGO, Citizens of Green Doon, Venugopal said this kind of practice is not done in the Supreme Court, and he strongly objects to it.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the NGO, contended that they had filed a 4-5-page written note on Wednesday evening and sent its copy to the court master on Thursday morning. The bench replied that the copy was sent very late, and it also did not permit the NGO to file any written submissions.

Venugopal cited that there is already an affidavit submitted in the matter highlighting the importance of road widening for the army.

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