NGT Dismisses Adani’s Plea on Green Clearance Issue

The National Green Tribunal today dismissed the appeal of Adani-Pench Power Ltd for review of its verdict rejecting the company’s contention that a challenge to the environment clearance granted to its thermal power project in Madhya Pradesh was time barred.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar rejected Adani’s review plea saying the petition challenging the environment clearance (EC) granted to its project raises substantial questions relating to environment and requires to be examined on merit.

Adani had challenged the NGT’s July 11, 2013 verdict by which the tribunal had rejected the company’s objection that the petition filed by activist Medha Patkar against the clearance granted to its project in Chhindwara District of Madhya Pradesh was filed too late. The Environment Ministry (MoEF) had also earlier taken a similar argument that petition by Medha Patkar had been filed beyond the period of limitation.

“The matters in issue in the present appeal (by Patkar) raise substantial questions relating to environment and they require to be examined on merits. All that the Tribunal has done is to hold that the appeal is within time and should be heard on merits.

“The objections raised by the applicant in its review petition are void of any substance and merit and, therefore, deserve to be rejected,” the bench, also comprising its judicial member Justice U D Salvi, said today and listed the main matter for arguments on December 20.

Adani had from the start opposed Patkar’s plea saying environmental clearance was granted and communicated on October 16-17, 2012 while her petition was filed on January 30, 2013 and as such there is a delay of 16 days beyond the period of the stipulated 90 days.

However, the tribunal in its July 11 decision had held that the plea was filed within the stipulated 90 days.

Adani had, thereafter, sought review of the NGT’s July 11 judgement on the ground that the EC had been uploaded on the environment ministry’s website and that Patkar’s plea that the same was inaccessible is an error on the face of the record.

The tribunal, however, rejected the contention in its latest judgement saying, “At the relevant point of time there was no record before the Tribunal to believe that the EC order was downloadable or was accessible to the public at large immediately on and after October 17, 2012.”

“Furthermore, it was brought on record before the Tribunal in a number of cases that the website of the MoEF was defective and downloading of EC orders or other necessary documents was not possible.

“It has come on record that the website of MoEF was not properly functioning and was set right only in June, 2012 in view of the letter dated 5th June, 2012 of the Director, MoEF (Judgement in Save Mon Region Foundation). Further it has also come on record, vide letter dated 26th December, 2012 of the Director, MoEF that it was doubtful whether the website of MoEF was effectively accessible,” the bench said while upholding its earlier decision.

In her petition, Patkar has challenged the legality and correctness of the environmental clearance granted on October 16, 2012 by the MoEF to Adani’s 2×660 MW imported coal based thermal power plant at villages Dhanora, Chausara, Dogawani Pipariya, Hiwarkhedi and Thawriteka in Chaura and Chhindwara taluka in district Chhindwara of Madhya Pradesh.

She has contended in her petition that the EC has been granted to the Adani “in violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment notification of 2006 in an arbitrary manner and it being contrary to law, is otherwise illegal”.