GREEN BENCH ORDERS DISMANTLING OF JAL’s THERMAL PLANT
FINES JAYPEE 100 CRORES AS DAMAGES FOR INDULGING IN BLATANT FALSEHOODS
CONSTITUTES SPECIAL INVESTIGATING TEAM (SIT) TO IDENTIFY PUBLIC SERVANTS WHO CONNIVED WITH JAYPEE
The Shimla High Court Green Bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta and Sanjay Karol on 4th May 2012 passed a path breaking judgement against Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL)’s Cement and Thermal Power Plant in Bagheri, Nalagrah (Solan District) for blatant violations of environmental laws and indulging in misleading and hoodwinking the State Government and other regulatory agencies. The case (CWP 586/2010) was filed by Him Parivesh, a Nalagarh based environment group and representatives of the affected area after it came to their notice that the company had constructed a cement plant and was in the process of setting up a Thermal Plant without any public hearings or seeking the required permissions from the Ministry of Environment and the State Pollution Control Board.
The judgement passed by the High Court concluded after finding a series of serious lapses on the part of all the regulatory bodies, “JAL has successfully misled and hoodwinked the State of Himachal Pradesh, the H.P. State Pollution Control Board, the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Environment Appraisal Committee and all other authorities. These authorities and the officials who were manning these authorities are supposed to act like watch dogs to fiercely protect the interest of the public. They unfortunately behaved like meek lambs being led for slaughter.”
Stating that this Company “has behaved like a law unto itself'” the bench decided to quash the Environment Clearance for the Thermal Power Plant and ordered that it be dismantled within three months.
Taking cognisance of the dubious role played by the authorities involved especially the State Government’s Industry Department, Pollution Control Board and the MoEF the bench has set up a Special Invesigation Team to look into the matter and identify the officials involved and initiate criminal proceedings against erring officials. the SIT has to submit its report by 31st Decemeber 2012 to the High Court.
Along with these two critical aspects the judgement also includes a fine of Rs 100 crores to be paid by JAL as damages under the polluter pays principle. The judgement in this regard states “Being a Court of law and equity, we are also not oblivious to the effect which our order may have if we quash the environmental clearance and direct that the cement plant be demolished. If this was going to affect JAL alone we would not have hesitated to pass such an order. We are sadly aware that if we pass such an order the livelihood of thousands who are totally innocent and not guilty like JAL will be adversely affected.”
However, the High Court went on to say:
“Since we have permitted the Cement Plant to function by way of an exception, we are making it clear that if it is brought to the notice of this Court that JAL is not complying with the conditions laid down by the EAC while granting environmental clearance or is guilty of causing pollution, we shall not hesitate to recall the aforesaid order and direct that the plant be closed down.” This provides the petitioners great leverage to approach the court in case of future violations
Balkrishna Sharma and Jagat Singh Dukhiya of Him Parivesh have welcomed the judgement in the case which was being argued by theur counsel Jyotsna Dua Rewal. Rahul Saxena, member of Him Dhara who was tracking the case and provided research support said that the order will have a far reaching impact for environment justice cases not just in the state but in the entire country.
The order deserves to be read in detail as it exposes the mockery made of the environment norms and laws by the government and private companies.