SC stops construction work at Mundra port

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 19 2013, 06:28am hrs
The Supreme Court on Friday stopped construction and development work of industrial units at the Adani group-owned Adani Port special economic zone (APSEZ) at Mundra in Kutch pending clearances from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). However, it allowed already functional units to continue business operations within APSEZ (formerly Mundra Port and SEZ).

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, while disposing of the four petitions filed by Skaps industries, Ahistrom Fiber Composites (I), Oriental Carbon Chemicals and Dorf Ketal Speciality Catalyst, set aside the Gujarat High Courts exparte order that halted commercial production of all 12 industrial units within the SEZ till environment clearance was granted by the MoEF in favour of APSEZ.

It also asked the Gujarat High Court to hear all parties on February 28 and pass a fresh order on the public interest litigation (PIL) that had questioned functioning of the SEZ and the units which had only clearance from the state authorities, and not the environment ministry.

It also observed that the HC should not have passed the drastic order for shutting down the operating units at the initial stage of the case without even hearing all the affected parties.

The companies argued that they have been operational since two years and exports worth billions of rupees and the livelihoods of hundreds of workers would be affected by the closure of units. Besides, the HC has no jurisdiction to try and entertain such pleas in view of the National Green Tribunal, which alone has jurisdiction to decide cases where a substantial question relating to environment is involved, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi argued. The SEZ promoter counsel argued that it had sought the environment ministrys clearance but got no response, and as per norms the SEZ was deemed to have been granted after 45 days of applying.

The apex court had last week stayed the HC order and had issued notice to the Centre through MoEF, APSEZ, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and other 21 parties including the 11 other companies.

The stay order had come on a petition filed by Dorf Ketal, a chemicals manufacturer, challenging the HCs exparte order. The HC had passed the interim order on a PIL filed by villagers of Navinal village who alleged that the 12 units of the Adani Group have gone ahead with the production as well as import and export activities without any environment clearance.