“Show-cause notice was issued with motive of causing financial loss to LCL”

In its reply to the show cause notice issued by the Environment Ministry, Lavasa Corporation Limited has accused Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh of acting with mala fide intent. He issued the notice in haste, breaching the “principles of natural justice,” it said.

“Our clients deny each and every allegation made by you in the above notice,” the reply by Agarwal Law Associates, representing the LCL, said. It claimed that Mr. Ramesh took the decision because of pressure from “political activists” like Medha Patkar. The notice was issued with the motive of causing huge irreparable financial loss to LCL. The notice came at an important time when LCL was about to go in for an IPO of close to Rs.2,000 crores, it pointed out.

LCL's allegation

The LCL alleged that Mr. Ramesh did not verify the allegations made by Ms. Patkar and other activists, even though he had their report for seven months.

The reply also accuses the Minister of having “suppressed facts” with regard to the project. Challenging Mr. Ramesh's authority, LCL claims that Lavasa was out of the jurisdiction of the Union Environment Ministry.

It said that since the matter was sub judice (National Alliance of People's Movement has filed a PIL against LCL and Maharashtra State in the Bombay High Court), the Union Environment Ministry could not issue notice against LCL.

It said that according to a reply it got from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in 2005, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 1994, as amended in 2004 and 2006, did not apply to Lavasa city. It claimed that it had permission to construct on up to 2,000 hectares, which it had completed. The application for permission for the next 5,000 hectares, submitted in August 2005, was with the Maharashtra State Impact Assessment Authority.

The show cause notice that threatened to demolish the illegal construction ignored issues of “financial stakes and larger public interest,” the reply said. The vast development done by Lavasa was ignored. So was the projected loss in employment and education. Some 8,174 jobs had been created so far, it claimed.

Thousands of third party rights had been created and these innocent persons would be unnecessarily harmed.

Speaking to the media in Mumbai on Sunday, Mr. Ramesh had said: “Arbitrary action won't be taken. Lavasa will also be given a chance to explain. Due procedure will be followed, and the decision will be taken after all these considerations.”

Choudhary of Oasis Environmental Foundation told TheHindu that the LCL's reply was untenable and that the matter was now between the Ministry and LCL.

Ms. Patkar too took exception to the response and stated that the movement against illegal constructions would continue.

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