Mumbai: The Union Ministry of Environment
and Forests (MoEF) on Wednesday granted `conditional` permission to
Lavasa Corporation to complete its under-construction
buildings at its housing project site near Pune even as the
realty firm backtracked on its plea to withdraw the petition
challenging the stop-work notice issued by the Ministry.
According to the affidavit filed by the MoEF before
the Bombay High Court, its expert committee has "permitted"
the Lavasa Corporation to complete construction of 257
buildings which are above the plinth level at its hill city.
"In view of the investments made and taking note of
the hardships faced by the petitioners (Lavasa) and pending
construction work of 257 buildings, which are above plinth
level, construction is permitted with some conditions," the
affidavit filed by Deputy Director of the MOEF said.
Simultaneously, senior counsels Mukul Rohatgi and
Janak Dwarkadas, appearing for Lavasa, told the High Court
that the petitioner would like to withdraw their petition
challenging the stop-work notice issued by the MoEF last year.
They told the court that Lavasa would pursue its
application filed before the MoEF seeking clearance for the
housing project coming up in Pune district.
Lavasa, however, backtracked after the division bench
of justices Ranjana Desai and R G Ketkar refused to lift the
stay on the stop-work notice. The bench said let the MoEF hear
the Lavasa`s application and take a final decision on it.
"Initially, we (Lavasa) had said that the MOEF has no
jurisdiction to issue stop-work notice. But today, we agree
that clearance from the Ministry is required. Lavasa is losing
Rs 5 crore everyday since the construction has been stopped.
Till date, the loss has been Rs 300 crore," Rohatgi submitted.
The Lavasa Corporation, a subsidiary of Hindustan
Construction Company (HCC), had challenged in Bombay High
Court the November 25 notice of MoEF for not obtaining
mandatory permission under the Environment Protection Act
before starting the project in 2004.
Lavasa had claimed in its petition that it is a
tourism project and was based on the state hill tourism
policy, formulated by the state government, allowing the Rs
2,000-crore project to come up.
Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata appearing
for MoEF said "The experts committee formed to look into the
issue has already submitted its report reaffirming the stop
work notice. There are several violations. Let Lavasa approach
the ministry, which would hear the matter and give its
decision. It might lead to prosecution or penalty or