Gangtok, Oct. 22: Sikkim High Court has disposed of a pubic interest litigation against the central and the state government agencies entrusted with maintenance of three highways in the state, observing that the pace of work has picked up after legal proceedings were initiated against the agencies.
The court, however, directed the BRO and the Project Swastik to submit a report mentioning the progress of the work every quarter of the year with the first report due on January 11.
The high court had taken up a suo motu PIL in May against 10 government agencies after its attention was drawn to the dilapidated condition of the three strategic roads — National Highway 31A, North Sikkim Highway and Jawaharlal Nehru Marg connecting Gangtok with Nathu-la on the India-China border.
The respondents were the secretaries of the Union surface transport, home, defence, finance, forest and environment and the road transport and highways ministries, director general of border roads, chief engineer of Project Swastik, state chief secretary and the state forest department.
Initiating the case, the court had noticed that “the work of upgradation and widening of these roads was taking at a painfully slow place when, considering the national security, it ought to have been done with greater rapidity.”
While disposing of the PIL on October 11, a division bench of Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran and Justice S.P. Wangdi appreciated the constraints faced by the Project Swastik personnel in execution of the work caused by the extreme weather condition and hostile terrain.
“But those are factors that are not new and, considering their experience, the respondent No. 3 (Project Swastik chief engineer) would be expected to evolve necessary strategies to overcome them. It is noticed that after initiation of these proceedings the pace of works have picked up considerably for which we record our appreciation,” the court said.
Observing that the period till May 2011 is conducive to “uninterrupted execution of the work” as the monsoon has receded, the court said the work should be taken up with “utmost urgency” so that those portions of the highways for which the clearances had been obtained and funds provided could be completed soon.
The judges acknowledged that the major reasons for the delay in implementing the work by the BRO were the lack of timely grant of forest and environment clearances and the approval of detailed project reports by the authorities concerned. Considering the importance of these roads, the court expected that such clearances would be granted fast by the agencies concerned on a priority basis.