Maharashtra government on Thursday informed the Bombay HC that it would initiate “credible” action against Lavasa Corporation for violation of environmental laws within two weeks, after which the union environment ministry could reconsider its passed order.
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had on October 13 passed an order in the matter stating it would be able to take final decision on environment clearance only after the five pre-conditions laid down by the ministry are complied with by Lavasa and the State government.
The first pre-condition is for Maharashtra government to take credible action against Lavasa for violations under the Environment Protection Act (EPA). The State government had however till date not taken any action.
Pulling up the State government, a division bench of Justices D D Sinha and V K Tahilramani said, “MoEF had sent a letter to the government on June 10 this year asking it to take credible action but till date nothing has been done. What does the government proposes to do? Will it take action or will it not?”
Counsel for the government, S K Shinde told the court that no action was taken till date as the matter was sub-judice and pending before the court and a clarification was sought from MoEF in July but no reply was given.
After the court sought to know if the State government would now take action, Mr. Shinde said the government would initiate action within two weeks.
“We have taken instructions from the secretary of environment department who said positive action would be initiated against Lavasa for violations,” he said.
In view of the statement made by Maharashtra government, Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata appearing for MoEF, told the court that the ministry would reconsider the application filed by Lavasa seeking environmental clearance and pass its final order within three weeks.
The bench after perusing the MoEF order observed that the order was ambiguous and not conclusive.
“The order should have been decisive and conclusive. Why doesn’t the order say whether Lavasa’s application has been rejected or accepted? By saying that it is unable to issue clearance, the ministry has kept the issue pending,” Justice Sinha said.
After the government initiates action, the MoEF should reconsider the application and pass its final order within three weeks.
“This order will have to clearly say whether the application is accepted or rejected. The ministry will not be given extension after three weeks under any circumstances,” the court said while posting the matter for final hearing on November 16.
If the ministry fails to pass its final order either rejecting or accepting the application, the court said it would hear Lavasa’s petition on merits and pass appropriate orders.
Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade appearing for Lavasa argued that the MoEF has been taking time to pass the order since June this year and is financially crushing the township.
“Since four months there has been no construction. Lavasa is losing crores of money every day,” he argued.
The pre-conditions set by the committee include Maharashtra government to initiate credible action against Lavasa for violations under Environment (Protection) Act, submission in form of a formal resolution from the Board of Directors of Lavasa Corporation that violations under the Act would not be repeated and the scale and intensity of development of the hill town shall be as per Hill Station Regulations and there would be a clear demarcation of ‘no development/ construction’ zone.
Lavasa Corporation, a subsidiary of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), had challenged in HC the November 25 notice issued by MoEF directing stay on construction for not obtaining mandatory environment clearances before starting the project in 2004 in Pune district of western Maharashtra.