A clutch of real estate firms have moved the Supreme Court challenging the National Green Tribunal’s direction that quashed the two orders passed by the Union ministry of environment and forests, which said post facto environmental clearance could be provided to projects if construction work had already started.
Coming down heavily on the builders, a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that it will look into the issue and review its earlier decision that had stayed the NGT’s order last year. It also posted the appeals for hearing on next Friday.
“You (builders) are fooling people… People then flock here demanding possession. We are not going to allow it and will review our earlier order,” the CJI observed.
While directing the promoters of seven projects, six of them Tamil Nadu-based developers, to stop work and pay 5% of their project cost as fine to Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for not getting environment clearance before starting work, the NGT had quashed the Office Memoranda dated December 12, 2012, and June 27, 2013, on the grounds that they suffered from the infirmity of lack of inherent jurisdiction and authority. The tribunal had also pointed out that they should not pass on the burden of the compensation to the customers.
Project or activities involving an area above 20,000 square meters required prior environmental clearance (EC) from the Centre.
Satilita Sehkari Awas Smiti, whose project was delisted by the UP authorities after the NGT order, has challenged the impugned judgment saying that on one hand the NGT had quashed the OMs as being ultra-vires and contrary to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006 and on the other hand had sought to indirectly encroach upon the legislative arena by suo-moto directing the establishment of an environment committee which was required to conduct its affairs in terms of the core principles contained in the OMs.
It submitted that this action “was wholly contrary, perverse and amounted to a patent over-reach of the law” and the impugned judgment go beyond the jurisdiction vested in the tribunal.
Smiti had not taken prior Environmental Clearance, as it was under bona-fide belief that the “No Objection” granted by the UP Pollution Control Board in 2008 was equivalent to EC, senior counsel Rajiv Datta told the apex court.