In the case against Isha Foundation for alleged constructions of buildings without obtaining environmental clearance between 2006 and 2014, the Madras High Court on Tuesday restrained the Coimbatore District Environmental Engineer (DEE) from proceeding further with the prosecution.
The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice M. N. Bhandari and Justice P. D. Audikesavalu passed the interim order while admitting a plea moved by the foundation challenging the prosecution. Court further issued notices to the Centre and the State government returnable by two weeks and asked the Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan to ascertain the stand of the Centre on the issue by the next date of hearing.
Issuing the notices, court noted, "In the meanwhile, the respondents would not proceed further in reference to the show cause notice for prosecution, without permission of this Court."
To the foundation, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had issued a notice in November 2021, seeking to show cause as to why it should not be prosecuted for violation of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued in 2014 as it did not get environmental clearances for all the buildings constructed between 2006 and 2014.
The foundation had moved the high court against this show cause notice contending that the State government authorities had misconstrued the 2014 notification as the same was an extension of a similar notification issued in 2006 and therefore the exemption granted for buildings used for educational purposes must be extended from 2006 and not from 2014.
As per the 2006 notification, obtaining environmental clearance was mandatory for all constructions, however, as per the 2014 notification, an exemption was granted from getting such clearance for buildings of educational institutions.
The foundation had further contended that since 1994 it has constructed buildings over 1,25,849 square meters for educational purposes under the board of Isha Yoga Center which runs a group of educational institutions.
Foundation had further submitted that out of the total construction, 28,279 square meters of the building was constructed before issuance of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006 mandating environment clearance for such constructions, and the remaining 91,519 square meters were constructed later.
On the other hand, Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram representing the State had said, it was up to the Centre to clarify whether the 2014 notification would have a retrospective effect from 2006 or not. He added the prosecution had already been launched by filing a complaint before a Magistrate’s court.
After hearing both sides, the court issued the notices while granting interim relief to the foundation. The High Court will take up the matter again on February 1, 2022.
Case Title: Isha Foundation v. Union of India and 4 Ors.
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