New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal Tuesday quashed two office memoranda of the Environment Ministry dealing with the issue of clearances for major and minor projects, saying they suffered from infirmity of "lack of inherent jurisdiction and authority."
The tribunal held as "ultra vires" the December 12, 2012 and June 27, 2013 office memoranda, which dealt with the verification of complaints and to restrain the violators from going ahead with the projects respectively.
The office memorandum of December 12, 2012 states that whenever any case of violation of Environment Clearance Regulations of 2006 is brought to the notice of the Ministry, it would verify the veracity of the complaint through regional offices and then seek the explanation of Project Proponent.
The June 27, 2013 office memorandum states that in case of any violation, the project proponent has to be restrained from carrying out any construction or operational activity without the required clearance.
"We hold and declare the Office Memoranda dated December 12, 2012 and June 27, 2013 as ultra vires the provisions of the Act of 1986 and the Notification of 2006. They suffer from the infirmity of lack of inherent jurisdiction and authority. Resultantly, we quash both these Office Memoranda," a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.
"Consequently, the above Office Memoranda are held to be ineffective and we prohibit the MoEF and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) in the entire country from giving effect to these Office Memoranda in any manner whatsoever," the green panel said.
The tribunal, however, said that the orders passed by SEIAA de-listing the applications of the project proponents, did not suffer from any legal infirmity.
"These orders are in conformity with the provisions of the Act of 1986 and the Notification of 2006 and do not call for interference," it said.
Seven companies who had taken advantage of these impugned Office Memoranda or were in the process of seeking advantage thereof were impleaded in the petition by the petitoners.
The bench also constituted an expert committee comprising member secretaries of SEIAA, Tamil Nadu and the state's pollution control board and others and asked it to inspect all the projects in question and submit a detailed report to the Tribunal.
The tribunal also imposed a total liability of over Rs 76 crore on seven companies-- M/s Y Pondurai, M/s Ruby Manoharan Property Developers Pvt Ltd, M/s Jones Foundations Pvt Ltd, M/s SSM Builders and Promoters, M/s SPR and RG Construction Pvt Ltd, M/s Dugar Housing Ltd, M/s SAS Realtors Pvt Ltd.
"The above environmental compensation is being imposed on account of the intentional defaults and the conduct attributable only to the project proponents. We direct that the project proponents shall not pass on this compensation to the purchasers/prospective purchasers, as an element of sale," the panel said.
It also said that the compensation should be paid to the TNPCB within three weeks and the amounts shall be kept in a separate account.
The green panel passed the order on a bunch of petitions challenging the office memoranda of the Ministry, saying if the construction has already commenced or even completed, compliance to the provisions of these laws would be impossible.
It also asked the expert committee that its report should deal with to the illegal and unauthorized acts and activities carried out by the respondents.
The panel asked the committee to deal with the ecological and environmental damage done by these projects.