The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday cancelled environment clearance to the coal mining project of Naveen Jindal's steel and power plant in Chhattisgarh on grounds of faulty public hearing.
The judgment delivered by Justice C.V. Ramulu and R. Nagandran held that the entire public hearing of Jindal's coal mining project at Raigarh district of Chattisgarh was a "farce" and makes a "mockery of the public hearing process".
According to NGT, the environment ministry in an illegal manner decided that the public hearing was complete and granted clearance to the Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) plant in 2009.
The appeal against the environmental clearance was filed by NGO Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Sanghatan and Jan Chetna.
"In the case on hand, after viewing the CD of the public hearing conducted on 5 Jan 2008, we are surprised to note to our dismay that the same was a farce. It was a mockery of the public hearing and the procedure required to be followed thereof," the bench observed.
The bench said that the environment appraisal committee (EAC) had recommended for re-conduct of the public hearing. However, it was not adhered to.
"The project proponent submitted false no objection certificates from the affected gram panchayats. Therefore, the entire process of issuing the environment clearance was vitiated under law and thus deserves to be set aside," it said.
Calling it as a classic example of violation of the rules and the principles of natural justice to its brim, the bench declared that the public hearing conducted in the case is nullity in the eye of law and therefore is invalid.
"The ministry is at liberty to direct the appropriate authority to re-conduct a public hearing by taking all steps as required under the law," it added.