21 November 2022


Supreme Court

Keystone Realtors Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Anil V. Tharthare and Ors.




Fresh environmental clearance necessary for expansion beyond limits approved by Prior EC

The present Civil Appeal arises from an order of the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal. In its order, the NGT held that, the increase in the total construction area of the Appellant's project was an "expansion" under a Notification dated 14 September 2006 of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The NGT found that, the Appellant had undertaken an "expansion" as set out in Paragraph 2 of the EIA Notification without complying with the regulatory procedure prescribed. The Appellant was directed to deposit an amount of Rupees one crore with the Central Pollution Control Board. Noting that the construction at the project site had been completed, the NGT appointed a five-member expert committee to study the impact of the Appellant's expanded project and to suggest remedial measures.

The issue before this Court is whether the 'amended' EC dated 13 March 2014 granted by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) without following the procedure stipulated in paragraph 7(ii) of the EIA Notification is valid.

In a case where the text of the provisions requires interpretation, present Court must adopt an interpretation which is in consonance with the object and purpose of the legislation or delegated legislation as a whole. The EIA Notification was adopted with the intention of restricting new projects and the expansion of new projects until their environmental impact could be evaluated and understood. It cannot be disputed that as the size of the project increases, so does the magnitude of the project's environmental impact. This Court cannot adopt an interpretation of the EIA Notification which would permit, incrementally or otherwise, project proponents to increase the construction area of a project without any oversight from the Expert Appraisal Committee or the SEAC, as applicable.

The procedure set out under paragraph 7(ii) of the EIA Notification exists to ensure that where a project is expanded in size, the environmental impact on the surrounding area is evaluated holistically considering all the relevant factors including air and water availability and pollution, management of solid and wet waste and the urban carrying capacity of the area. This was not done in the case of the Appellant's project. It was not open to the third Respondent to grant an 'amendment' to the EC without following the procedure set out in paragraph 7(ii) of the EIA Notification.

As on the date of the impugned order, construction at the project site had already been completed. A core tenet underlying the entire scheme of the EIA Notification is that construction should not be executed until ample scientific evidence has been compiled so as to understand the true environmental impact of a project. By completing the construction of the project, the Appellant denied the third and fourth Respondents the ability to evaluate the environmental impact and suggest methods to mitigate any environmental damage. At this stage, only remedial measures may be taken. The NGT has already directed the Appellant to deposit Rupees one crore and has set up an expert committee to evaluate the impact of the Appellant's project and suggest remedial measures.

In view of circumstances, the directions of the NGT are upheld and the committee is directed to continue its evaluation of the Appellant's project so as to bring its environmental impact as close as possible to that contemplated in the EC dated 2 May 2013 and also suggest the compensatory exaction to be imposed on the Appellant. The appeal is dismissed.

Tags : Environmental impact Regulatory procedure Compliance

Share :