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Maharashtra tells HC it will take ‘credible action’ against Lavasa in two weeks

The Bombay High Court pulls up state government, and has instructed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to clearly say whether the Lavasa application has been accepted or rejected. It has added that the ministry will not be given an extension after three weeks under any circumstances. The final hearing will take place on 16th November

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government today informed the Bombay High Court (HC) that it would initiate “credible” action against Lavasa Corporation for violation of environmental laws within two weeks, after which the Union environment ministry could reconsider its passed order, reports PTI.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had on 13th October passed an order in the matter stating it would be able to take a final decision on environment clearance only after the five preconditions laid down by the ministry are complied with by Lavasa and the state government.

The first precondition is for the Maharashtra government to take credible action against Lavasa for violations under the Environment Protection Act (EPA). However, the state government had till date not taken any action.

Pulling up the state government, a Division Bench of Justices DD Sinha and
VK Tahilramani said, “MoEF had sent a letter to the government on 10th June this year asking it to take credible action but till date nothing has been done. What does the government propose to do? Will it take action or will it not?”

Counsel for the government, SK Shinde, told the HC that no action was taken till date as the matter was sub-judice and pending before the court and a clarification was sought from MoEF in July but no reply was given.

After the HC sought to know if the state government would now take action, Mr Shinde said the government would initiate action within two weeks.

“We have taken instructions from the secretary of the environment department who said positive action would be initiated against Lavasa for violations,” he said. In view of the statement made by the Maharashtra government, Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata appearing for the MoEF, told the HC that the ministry would reconsider the application filed by Lavasa seeking environmental clearance and pass its final order within three weeks.

The Bench, after perusing the MoEF order, observed that the order was ambiguous and not conclusive. “The order should have been decisive and conclusive. Why doesn’t the order say whether Lavasa’s application has been rejected or accepted? By saying that it is unable to issue clearance, the ministry has kept the issue pending,” Justice Sinha said.

After the government initiates action, the MoEF should reconsider the application and pass its final order within three weeks.

“This order will have to clearly say whether the application is accepted or rejected. The ministry will not be given extension after three weeks under any circumstances,” the court said while posting the matter for final hearing on 16th November.

If the ministry fails to pass its final order either rejecting or accepting the application, the HC said it would hear Lavasa’s petition on merits and pass appropriate orders. Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade appearing for Lavasa argued that the MoEF has been taking time to pass the order since June this year and is “financially crushing” the township. “Since four months there has been no construction. Lavasa is losing crores of money every day,” he argued.

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