Maharashtra promises ‘credible action’ against Lavasa developers

October 20th, 2011 - 11:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Oct 20 (IANS) The Maharashtra Government Thursday assured the Bombay High Court of initiating “credible action” against the private mega-township Lavasa for environmental violations.

The move follows the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests’ rejection Oct 13 of an application by Lavasa for clearance of the first phase of the 5,000-hectare hill-station project coming up near Pune.

Following the state government’s assurance, the MoEF said in court that it would reconsider its decision and pass its final order on either allowing or rejecting the project within three weeks.

A division bench comprising Justice D.D. Sinha and Justice V.K. Tahilramani accordingly placed the matter for further hearing Nov. 16.

However, the judges made it clear to the state government and MoEF that the deadline of three weeks would not be extended under any circumstance.

The company informed the court that construction work on the Lavasa hill township has been stalled since November 2010 when the MoEF issued a show-cause notice, causing an estimated loss of Rs.20 million daily.

Incidentally, June 10, the MoEF had written to the state government that construction work on 681 hectares of the first 2,000-hectare phase of the Lavasa project was done without obtaining environmental clearance and action should be taken against the company.

The state sought clarification from MoEF but received no reply.

“The state, despite the communication of June 10, did not initiate action for violation of environmental provisions. Are you proposing to take action or not? The state must make its stand clear,” Justice Sinha asked state counsel S.K. Shinde.

Shinde assured the court that the state would take ‘credible action’ against the Lavasa project in two weeks.

Social activist Y.P. Singh, who had filed the public interest litigation in the matter, said criminal action could be initiated under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Sec. 15, which attracts a jail term of up to five years and fine of Rs.100,000, or both.

“The action under this (section) would involve criminal procedures and prosecution of the persons who were directors of the company in 2004,” said Singh, who represents National Alliance of People’s Movement on whose behalf the PIL was filed.

Incidentally, at the hearing Sep 23, the high court had directed the MoEF to pass a final order in three weeks.

However, the court observed that the MoEF order of Oct 13, rejecting clearance for the first phase, was neither decisive nor conclusive.

“The order placed before this court shows that the final decision has not been passed by MoEF. Since the permission was granted by the court to pass a final order, it was necessary for the MoEF to consider the application on its merit and decide either by rejecting or allowing clearance. The union ministry did not do either,” Justice Sinha observed.

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