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Supreme Court Overrules Himachal HC, Greenlights Gaggal Airport Expansion Amid Land and Safety Debates

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      23 January, 2024 12:35 PM      0 Comments
Supreme Court Overrules Himachal HC Greenlights Gaggal Airport Expansion Amid Land and Safety Debates

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday suspended a Himachal High Court order, which stalled the Gaggal airport expansion project in Kangra district.

A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra issued notice on a plea by the state government challenging the validity of the High Court's order of January 9, 2024.

While staying the High Court's order, the bench explained this will, however, not preclude the high court from hearing the writ petition on merits.

It was submitted before the top court that the high court order brought the entire project to a standstill despite the state government’s categorical assurance regarding a relief and rehabilitation process.

The high court order was passed on a plea filed by some members of the Gaggal Airport Expansion Affected Society Welfare Committee.

The high court stayed the airport expansion project.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government authorities, submitted that the state was contemplating a fresh techno-economic feasibility study.

The bench stayed the operation of the high court order.

The high court had ordered a status quo till February 29, the next date of hearing, on all aspects of the matter, including the relief and rehabilitation process, taking possession of the land notified for acquisition and the demolition of structures on it.

Rohatgi submitted that of the three airports in Himachal Pradesh, the one in Kangra is the only facility where expansion is a possibility.

He said that the high court order has stalled everything despite the advocate general making a statement that that neither any demolition will take place nor anyone be dispossessed.

Opposing the project, a counsel claimed the place in question falls under a seismic zone.

“There is already an airport and this is the expansion plan,” the bench said.

A plea was made before the high court, claiming that since the government was reconsidering the matter, it would not be proper to permit the state to proceed with taking possession of the land notified for acquisition or demolish structures on it or proceed with the relief and rehabilitation process.

According to reports, more than 2,500 families were to be uprooted due to the airport expansion project.

The government has notified the acquisition of 105 acres (about 65 acres of private land and 40 acres of government land) for the airport expansion.

The Central Finance Commission had sanctioned Rs 400 crore for the expansion of the Gaggal airport during the stint of the previous BJP government. In the Budget passed in the Assembly, the state government has made a provision of Rs 2,000 crore for the airport project.

The Gaggal airport is proposed to be expanded in two phases. The Airports Authority of India has decided to expand the Gaggal airport strip from 1,372 metres to 1,900 metres in the first phase. In the second phase, the strip length is proposed to be increased from 1,900 metres to 3,110 metres.



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