No relief for Lavasa from Bombay High Court

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - 22:58

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday
declined to interfere with a directive of the Union Ministry
of Environment and Forests (MOEF) asking Lavasa Corporation to
stop construction at its multi-crore township in Pune district
pending hearing of show-cause notice.

The HC asked MOEF to take, by January 10, a final
decision on the show-cause notice issued to the company.
It also directed that before taking the decision, a
state/Centre-level Environment Impact Assessment Committee
must visit the site "at least for three days" for inspection.

MOEF served notice to Lavasa on November 25 asking why
it did not obtain environmental clearances, as per
notifications issued under Environment Protection Act, before
the hill city project started in 2004.

The firm, a unit of Hindustan Construction Company, is
developing the hill station (called Lavasa) in Mulshi taluka.

It challenged MOEF`s order to stop the construction
pending hearing on notice.

When the matter landed in HC, MOEF gave a hearing to
the firm as to whether stay on construction was necessary, and
reconfirmed the stay on December 14.

Lavasa`s lawyers today argued before a Division Bench
of Justices B H Marlapalle and U D Salvi that the project did
not require clearance by MOEF in the first place.

Also, they said, the show-cause notice did not reveal
as what actual damage was caused to environment due to

The HC held that prima facie there was no breach of
"principles of natural justice" by MOEF.

Therefore, the Ministry`s order to Lavasa to maintain
status-quo need not be interfered with, the court said.

But, if Lavasa was still aggrieved after MOEF`s final
order on January 10, it may challenge it afresh, the Bench
The HC also admitted three PILs filed earlier with
regard to alleged illegalities in the project. The PILs, as
well as Lavasa`s present petition, will be finally heard on
January 27.

Referring to issues raised in these PILs, as well as a
report prepared by NGO `People`s Commission of Enquiry`, the
court said it would deal with some related issues too.

These issues include the alleged illegalities in the
transfer of land to Lavasa by Krishna Valley Development
Corporation (a Maharashtra Government agency), displacement of
people and the apprehension that the project may affect
irrigation and water supply to Pune city and surrounding

Meanwhile, Lavasa Corporation termed the High Court`s
admission of its petition questioning applicability of the
MOEF notice as an "encouraging development".

"The order directing the MOEF to visit Lavasa for
three days to take a comprehensive view of our project, before
delivering the final order on January 10, is a welcome
development," the firm said in a statement here today.

"The HC order also allows Lavasa to appeal against the
final MOEF order on or before January 14, 2011," it said.

The firm, a unit of Hindustan Construction Company,
said the court has directed the state government to "appoint a
committee to verify the allegations made through other PILs
and submit a detailed report before January 27".


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First Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - 22:58

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