The National Green Tribunal has slapped Jindal SAW Ltd with a Rs 1 crore fine for its "reprehensible" conduct by starting construction prior to grant of environmental clearance to its project in Gujarat.
The company, part of the $16.5 billion OP Jindal Group, started construction as part of an expansion project it has undertaken of its iron pipe manufacturing unit in the state's Kutch district.
A NGT bench headed by Justice V R Kingaonkar imposed the heavy fine on Jindal Group's flagship company, saying such "tendency" has to be dealt with "stern hands".
"The project proponent (Jindal SAW) overstepped the limitation imposed by the Environmental Clearance Regulations by starting with the construction before grant of environmental clearance (EC). The conduct of the project proponent is, therefore, reprehensible. The tendency to proceed with the project activity in spite of absence of the EC order has to be dealt with stern hand," the bench, also comprising Justice U D Salvi, said.
The tribunal imposed the heavy fine on the company while rejecting the plea, filed by residents of Samagogha village in Kutch district, challenging the clearance granted to Jindal SAW for expansion of its project.
The villagers had challenged the environment clearance granted to the company in 2009 on several grounds, including that starting of the project's construction prior to the grant of clearance and that it was given without holding a proper public hearing.
The villagers had also contended that the Environment Impact Assessment Report regarding the project was not scrutinised or supplied to them in the vernacular language and that area in which they live and make their living is going to be affected seriously as a result of the expansion.
While rejecting majority of the contentions raised by the villagers against the grant of EC, the NGT agreed that the company had begun construction prior to grant of clearance.
"In view of the matter, we are of the opinion that the project proponent shall be directed to deposit Rs one crore with this Tribunal which may be remitted to Environment Relief Fund," the bench said.
While disposing of the plea, the NGT directed the Gujarat State Pollution Control Board to monitor every six months the level and total dissolved solids (TDS) content of ground water in the project premises and to take necessary steps to check them before they reach dangerous levels."
The bench also observed that "the project proponent, as revealed from the record, has been in the habit of flouting the procedure of law by undertaking construction work during 2004 before the relevant EC was granted."
With inputs from PTI