The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday declared that there was no need for the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to take prior environmental clearance for widening of national highway-4A from Belagavi in Karnataka to Goa border.
The court, however, said the work of widening can be continued only after the Union government extends the validity of its in-principle approval granted earlier under the Forest Conservation Act or grants a fresh approval as the validity of the approval expired on December 31, 2020. Also, the court held that no material has been placed before it to establish that stretches of NH-4A in Karnataka and Goa have been “artificially divided” to bring length of the highway below 100 km to avoid obtaining of prior environmental clearances under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty passed the order while disposing a PIL petition by film-maker and environmentalist Suresh Heblikar and two others. The court said that it cannot grant the relief sought by the petitioners.