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Industry need not be shut over lack of prior green nod: Supreme Court

An industry contributing to country's economy and providing livelihood need not be shut only on grounds of technical irregularity of not obtaining prior environmental clearance, the Supreme Court said

Supreme Court of India. Photo: ANI

Supreme Court of India. Photo: ANI

Press Trust of India New Delhi
An industry contributing to the country's economy and providing livelihood need not be closed down only on the ground of the technical irregularity of not obtaining prior environmental clearance, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
A bench of justices Indira Banerjee and A S Bopanna said the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not prohibit ex post facto environmental clearance.
"Grant of ex post facto EC in accordance with law, in strict compliance with Rules, Regulations, Notifications and/or applicable orders, in appropriate cases, where the projects are in compliance with, or can be made to comply with environment norms, is in our view not impermissible.
"The court cannot be oblivious to the economy or the need to protect the livelihood of hundreds of employees and others employed in the project and others dependent on the project, if such projects comply with environmental norms," the bench said.
The apex court said there can be no doubt that the need to comply with the requirement to obtain EC is non-negotiable.
"A unit can be set up or allowed to expand subject to compliance of the requisite environmental norms. EC is granted on condition of the suitability of the site to set up the unit, from the environmental angle, and also existence of necessary infrastructural facilities and equipment for compliance of environmental norms.
"To protect future generations and to ensure sustainable development, it is imperative that pollution laws be strictly enforced. Under no circumstances can industries, which pollute, be allowed to operate unchecked and degrade the environment," the bench said.
The top court's observations came while setting aside an order of a National Green Tribunal directing closure of industries in Haryana which did not have prior EC.
"An establishment contributing to the economy of the country and providing livelihood ought 23 not to be closed down only on the ground of the technical irregularity of not obtaining prior Environmental Clearance irrespective of whether or not the unit actually causes pollution," it said.
The bench said ex post facto environmental clearance should not be granted routinely, but in exceptional circumstances taking into account all relevant environmental factors.
"Where the adverse consequences of denial of ex post facto approval outweigh the consequences of regularisation of operations by grant of ex post facto approval, and the establishment concerned otherwise conforms to the requisite pollution norms, ex post facto approval should be given in accordance with law, in strict conformity with the applicable Rules, Regulations and/or Notifications," the bench said.
The top court reiterated that the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not prohibit ex post facto EC.
"Some relaxations and even grant of ex post facto EC in accordance with law, in strict compliance with Rules, Regulations, Notifications and/or applicable orders, in appropriate cases, where the projects are in compliance with environment norms, is not impermissible," it said.
The top court said that ex post facto clearances and/or approvals cannot be declined with pedantic rigidity, regardless of the consequences of stopping the operations.
"This Court is of the view that the NGT erred in law in directing that the units cannot be allowed to function till compliance of the statutory mandate. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed. The impugned order is set aside in so far as the same is applicable to the units of the Appellants established and operated pursuant to CTE and CTO from the HSPCB in respect of which applications for ex post facto EC have been filed," the bench said.
The apex court directed the authorities to take a decision on the applications of the appellants for EC in accordance with law within one month from date.
"Pending decision, the operation of the Pahwa Yamuna Nagar Unit and the Apcolite Yamuna Nagar Unit, in respect of which consents have been granted and even public hearing held in connection with grant of EC, shall not be interfered with.
"The Appellants will be allowed to operate the units. Electricity, if disconnected, shall be restored subject to payment of charges, if any. If the application for EC is rejected on the ground of any contravention on the part of the Appellants, it will be open to the Respondents to disconnect the supply of electricity," the bench said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mar 25 2022 | 10:46 PM IST

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