SC notice on firm’s plea for ex post facto clearance for hotel

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice on a plea for ex post facto environment clearance for a hotel in McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh constructed in violation of Ministry of Environment and Forests approval.

An apex court vacation bench of Justice Abhay Mahohar Sapre, however, did not give any relief to petitioner-firm Prashanti Surya Construction Co. on the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order directing it to pay Rs.15 lakh as cost.

The apex court on May 16 put on hold the operation of the NGT’s May 4 order directing the demolition of a hotel-cum-restaurant built at McLeodganj multipurpose commercial bus stand and an inquiry against officials of Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority (HPBSMDA).

While staying in parts the operation of the NGT order, calling for the hotel to be razed within two weeks, the bench issued notice to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) that the Supreme Court formed to assist in environmental issues.

The project concessionaire, Prashanti Surya Construction Co., constructed the multipurpose commercial bus stand, including the hotel, at McLeodganj on build-operate-and-transfer (BOT) basis for HPBSMDA.

An apex court vacation bench of Justice Abhay Mahohar Sapre issued the notice on the plea of Prashanti Surya Construction Co. that there could be ex post facto approval by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for its hotel if it had happened in the case of malls constructed in prohibited Aravalli ranges in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area in breach of environmental norms.

“Is it not a case where the MoEF can examine and grant ex post facto approval?” senior counsel Jayant Bhushan asked while citing the construction in Vasant Kunj area.

McLeodgang, housing the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, is located in Dharamsala area of Kangra district.

Bhushan said his client could not be made to suffer for constructing the hotel in strict accordance with the tender specifications which, it latter surfaced, were at variance with the approval granted by the MoEF.

Bhushan even questioned the authority of the Supreme Court-appointed CEC on whose report the NGT on May 4 ordered the demolition of the hotel and imposed cost.

Pointing out that the CEC was not a statutory body, Bhushan said everything was done without their knowledge and behind their back on the basis of an affidavit.

The HPBSMDA told the apex court on May 16 that all that was done at the bus stand was in public domain and nothing was secret.

“The commercial features of the bus stand was the primary attraction for the investors to participate in the bidding since, without the same, the said project was commercially unviable,” the HPBSMDA said in its petition.

Assailing the NGT order to impose a penalty by invoking the principle of ‘polluter pays’, the HPBSMDA contended it did so without recording the reasons as to what damage was caused.

–IANS

pk/tsb/vt

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