The Madras High Court on Thursday issued notices to the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government on a plea against the acquisition of land for the proposed Chennai-Salem expressway project, PTI reported.

The petition, by the non-profit Poovulagin Nanbargal (“friends of earth”), asked for the acquisition process to be stopped. The plea said the authorities had started the acquisition process under the National Highways Act, 1956, without receiving objections from those likely to be affected by it.

Advocate General Vijay Narayan told the court that the landowners would benefit from the compensation up to four times the value of the land. On behalf of the Centre, Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan said the petitioner had no locus standi in the matter.

The division bench of Justices TS Sivagnanam and N Seshasayee posted the matter to July 12 for arguments on the maintainability of the petition.

The petition also sought the striking down of the Section 105 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The plea said that while the legislation envisages a “humane” process of land acquisition, its Section 105 allows the government to not acquire land for some uses in this manner – for example, land acquired under the National Highway Act. The Section 105 “perpetuates discriminatory treatment” of land-owners, and should be declared null and void, the plea said.

The Rs 10,000-crore expressway project has faced massive opposition, especially from farmers, as thousands of hectares of agricultural land and several hectares of forest land – cutting across five districts and eight reserved forests – have to be acquired.