“It needs to be independent …. So it can't be pressured by the Prime Minister”

With the Prime Minister's office intervening in several high-profile environment cases — most recently the Maheshwar dam issue — Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan has called for an independent environment regulator to be set up on the lines of the Lokpal.

“It needs to be independent and autonomous of the government, so that it can't be pressured by the Prime Minister,” said Mr. Bhushan, speaking at an event organised by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists protesting against the dam.

Needed: non-interference

In his order lifting the stop-work order on the Maheshwar Hydel Corp, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had implied that he was yielding to pressure from the Prime Minister, and from the current and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Ministers.

“Any regulatory body must be completely independent of those involved in promoting the issues that are to be regulated,” said Mr. Bhushan, calling for a broad-based, transparent authority.

Meanwhile, the NBA demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation “into the gross financial irregularities related to the Maheshwar project and the project promoters [the S. Kumars industrial group].” They claim the promoter is a wilful defaulter facing criminal charges of fraud.

The Shree Maheshwar Hydel; Corp dismissed these as “false allegations,” and in a statement, said that “there is no financial irregularity or economic offences” and “absolutely no question of any wilful default.”