The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Friday filed a criminal complaint against nine directors and six other officials of the Lavasa Corporation in a Pune court for violating environmental laws.
Filed under Sections 15 and 16 of the Environment Protection Act (EPA), the application has named chief promoter of the Lavasa Hill City project here, Ajit Gulabchand. The other directors, according to government sources, include Anuradha J. Desai, Vithal B. Maniar, K.G. Tendulkar, S.K. Khandelwal, S.K. Dharmadhikari, Sharad M. Kulkarni and Gautam Thapar. Lavasa officials include chief planning officer S.P. Pendharkar, chief planner Ambuja Jain, chief operating officer S. Narayan and associate vice-president Dnyanadeo Ghorpade.
No State government official has been included.
Chief Judicial Magistrate N.T. Ghatge, before whom the complaint was filed, said directions for further process would be given after scrutiny of documents.
The court is expected to issue summons to those it deems fit to be named accused. Advocate Sadanand Deshmukh represented the MPCB. The next hearing is scheduled for Saturday.
Under Section 16 of the EPA, “every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was directly in charge of, and responsible to, the company for the conduct of its business” is liable to be prosecuted. If prosecuted, the accused will face a penalty of Rs. 1 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years or both.
The State government, which was directed by the Bombay High Court to take ‘credible action' against Lavasa, on Thursday instructed the MPCB to initiate criminal proceedings. State action is one of the five preconditions laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in June 2011 for granting clearance for the project. The other four, to be met by Lavasa, included setting up an environmental restoration fund, earmarking five per cent of profits for corporate social responsibility, drawing a revised development plan and a commitment not to further violate green norms.
With the criminal proceedings under way, the MoEF can now grant clearance to the Lavasa Corporation.