New Delhi: Slamming the way the Environment Ministry gave clearance to Posco steel project in Orissa, the National Green Tribunal today said the entire process to review it was "vitiated" and the environment impact assessment (EIA) should have been for its total production capacity and not one-third of it.
Questioning why Meena Gupta was appointed as the head of the review panel, the quasi-judicial body said "she was the Secretary, MoEF at the time of issuance of clearances earlier which are sought to be reviewed through the Terms of Reference".
"Here, there is a clear bias to defend her previous acts as Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forest," a bench of Justice C V Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal said while suspending the environment clearance to the over Rs 50,000 crore project by the South Korean major, the country single largest FDI.
"Whether the act of Meena Gupta is fair or not, they are definitely hit by personal/ official/ departmental bias. In other words, she supported the decision made by her earlier. This is in gross violation of principles of natural justice. Therefore, the entire process of review is vitiated under the law," the bench said.
Gupta had headed the four-member review committee in which all others had given contrary opinions but her report approving the project was accepted by the MoEF.
The Tribunal held that the MoEF shall make a fresh review of the project with specific reference to the observations apprehensions raised by the review committee in both the reports, one by Gupta and other by majority members.
The tribunal pointed out that memorandum of understanding between the Orissa government and Posco states that the project is for production of 12 million tonnes of steel per annum (MTPA) but the environment impact assessment (EIA) report has been prepared only for 4 MTPA steel production in the first phase.
"It is also desirable that MoEF shall take a policy decision that in large projects like POSCO where MOUs are signed for large capacities and upscaling is to be done within a few years, the EIA right from the beginning, should be assessed for the full capacity and EC granted on this basis," it said.
First Published: Friday, March 30, 2012, 20:52