In A significant judgment that could prevent the booming business of illegal constructions across the country, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday imposed a penalty of Rs 76.192 crore on seven private builders for raising unauthorised structures.
Quashing two Office Memorandums of the environment ministry that it found to be in violation of the Environment Protection Act 1986, the green court held that seeking of prior environmental clearances in accordance with the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006 was "mandatory". Disposing the petitions of Manoj Misra, a former IFS officer and convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, and SP Muthuraman, an environmental activist, the tribunal awarded a penalty of Rs 7.4 crore on Y Pondurai, Rs 1.8 crore on Ruby Manoharan Property Developers, Rs 7 crore on Jones Foundations, Rs 36 crore on SSM Builders and Promoters, Rs 12.6 crore on SPR and RG Construction, Rs 6.9 crore on Dugar Housing and Rs 4.5 crore on SAS Realtors, all operating in Tamil Nadu.
The court also set up a committee to assess the ecological and environmental damage caused by the seven developers and submit the report within 45 days. While the ministry, in its office order of December 12, 2012, stated that as soon as a violation of the notification will be brought to its notice, it would proceed to verify the complaint through its regional offices and upon such verification, explanation would be called from them.
The ministry, in a subsequent order on June 27, 2013, asked for restraining of the project proponent from carrying out further construction until environmental clearances were not obtained. The petitioner had contended that both these orders encouraged people to flout the law by having provision for considering the project of an applicant where construction has already started or has been completed, instead of punishing him for causing environmental damage and degradation.
Petitioner Manoj Misra said, "There are thousands of buildings with illegal constructions in Delhi-NCR alone. One can imagine what would be the scenario of illegal structures across the country where majority ofthem are without the mandatory environmental clearances, which, apart from being law, is a necessity. These office orders depict a hopeless job by officers of the ministry."
"…we fail to understand as to why the ministry should take a step for condoning violation of law which was not within its jurisdiction and secondly, why should it prescribe a methodology contrary to law," the tribunal said.
(In association with Mail Today Bureau)
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