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HC stays Centre's order exempting building projects from green nod

HC stays Centres order exempting building projects from green nod

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed two notifications of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) granting exemption from environmental clearance (EC) for building projects up to 50,000 sq. metres built up area and 1,50,000 sq. metres in case of industrial sheds, educational institutions and hospitals.

A bench of justices Ravindra Bhat and Prateek Jalan passed the interim order on a plea by an NGO challenging the November 14 and 15 notifications of the ministry, alleging that they were violative of fundamental rights to protect life and personal liberty and equality before law. The court sought response of the MoEF on the petition and listed the matter for further hearing on February 19, next year.

The petition filed by NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) pleaded that the government be directed to follow the principle of non-regression in both letter and spirit and not to dilute or relax environment norms without any reasonable basis. The plea said that by the two recent notifications, the ministry has substantially amended the EIA notification of September 14, 2006.

It excluded the necessity of obtaining EC/ EIA/ Environmental Management Plan for building projects up to 50,000 sq. metres built up area and 1,50,000 sq. metres in case of industrial sheds, educational institutions and hospitals, as against the current criteria of 20,000 square metres built-up area, the plea said. This brought such projects out of purview regulatory regime of EP Act, 1986.

It said this would "directly and adversely impact the environment and ecology of the entire country", thus contravening the provisions of Article 21 and various judgements of the Supreme Court. It alleged that the notifications were ultra vires the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act and the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of September 2006, Air Pollution Act and Water Pollution Act.

"The notifications issued by the respondent (MoEF) are an abridged and inferior version of the earlier notification dated December 9, 2016 whereby building and construction protects up to 1,50,000 square metres were sought to be taken out of the regulatory regime of EIA notification of September 14, 2006 and to be entrusted to non-expert/ technical local bodies," the plea said.

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