Donít divulge info under RTI in early stage of a project: Madras high court , Tamil Nadu
Representative image MADURAI: Expressing surprise at the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for providing a RTI reply to a project report that was under preparation, which eventually stalled the land acquisition proceedings for a highway project in Kanyakumari district, the Madras high court has made it clear that the NHAI should not provide any information to anyone under the RTI Act till the project is approved by the central government.
Dismissing a batch of petitions challenging the land acquisition proceedings for a stretch of 1.5km in the district, justice N Anand Venkatesh observed that the land acquisition proceedings of a small extent has been stalled for the last five years due to the pendency of these petitions, while the central government has completed a major portion by spending a huge amount of Rs 1,300 crore.
The judge observed that by relying on the RTI reply of NHAI, the petitioners are raising the ground of legal malice by claiming that originally, there was an approved alignment which subsequently was altered to suit the needs of a church and based on the pressure that was exerted by an MLA .
ďIf information is provided, in the manner in which it has happened in the present case, obviously, the acquisition proceedings will be stalled and persons will start knocking the doors of this court even before the notification is published. It is therefore made very clear that NHAI should not be divulging information when the project is at the preparatory stage,Ē observed the judge.
The judge observed that just because the MLA had forwarded the representation of the church to the NHAI, it does not automatically result in an assumption that there was a political pressure to change the alignment.
The judge said that there is a guiding principle where the project must attempt to steer clear of obstructions such as Ďplaces of worshipí. Therefore, it is not unnatural or extraordinary when NHAI considered the request made by the church.
The judge observed that the second ground raised by the petitioners was that of Principle of Promissory Estoppel which states that the party who made the promise will not be permitted to go back on it to the detriment of the other. The petitioners were only getting information when the project was at its preparatory stage.
The judge observed that till date of approval of the project, there was no promise made to the petitioners that the alignment is going to happen only in a particular way. In fact, the alignment gets confirmed only after the notification is issued by the central government. Admittedly, there was no re-alignment after the publication of the notification and hence, there is no question of applying the Principles of Promissory Estoppel.
Hence, the judge dismissed the petition.