The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the Punjab government for not acting against a housing complex proposed to be developed by Tata Housing Development near the Sukhna lake and Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary.
In its judgment cancelling all the administrative clearances given for the housing complex proposed to be built on nearly 53 acres of land, the SC said that environment clearance “suffered from legal malafides, and it amounts to colourable exercise of power since about 95 MLAs of the State of Punjab are the beneficiaries of the proposed project”.
Tata Housing had proposed to develop a 28-storey housing-cum-retail project over nearly 53 acres of land which was only 123 metres from the northern side of the Sukhna wildlife sanctuary, and only 183 metres away from the eastern side of the project. The housing project, worth nearly Rs 2000 crore, was proposed to hold a population of nearly 10,000 people.
The housing project was granted environmental clearance, which was subsequently challenged in the high court. The Punjab high court, while hearing the matter, had cleared the project subject to the condition that Tata Housing got all the needed environmental clearances within the timeframe prescribed.
The SC, while hearing the plea challenging the Punjab HC order, set aside the lower court order, and had also asked the Delhi high court to look at the matter afresh. The Delhi HC had in April 2017 held that the project falls within the catchment area of Sukhna lake, and as such could not be allowed to proceed.
In its judgment on Tuesday, the SC said that the entire exercise of granting environmental clearance ‘smacked of arbitrariness on the part of Government including functionaries’.