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SC’s ruling on Ex Post Facto Environmental Clearance

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    5th Apr, 2022

Context

The Supreme Court recently set aside an order of the NGT on closure of industries running without prior green clearance.

About

What is Environmental Clearance?

  • Environmental Clearance (EC) is required under Environmental Impact Assessment Notification dated September 14, 2006.
  • There is no justification to permit function of such units in violation of mandate of law.

National Green National Council

  • It is a special body established under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010).
  • Aim: To effectively and expeditiously deal with cases related to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • NGT Act provides for special jurisdiction in court to deal with disputes arising under a set of seven rules (mentioned in Schedule I of the Act) -
    • Water Act
    • Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972
    • Forest (Conservation) Act 1980
    • Public Liability Insurance Act 1991
    • Biological Diversity Act 2002
    • National Green Tribunal Act 2010
  • NGT has five residences, New Delhi is the principal place of sitting. 
  • Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are four others.

The case matter

  • Appeal by Pahwa Plastics Pvt. Ltd against an NGT order holding that its manufacturing units, which did not have prior Environmental Clearance (EC) could not be allowed to operate.
  • The question in this case is, whether a unit contributing to the economy of the country and providing livelihood to hundreds of people, which has been set up pursuant to requisite approvals from the concerned statutory authorities, and has applied for ex post facto EC, should be closed down for the technical irregularity of want of prior 28 environmental clearance, pending the issuance of EC, even though it may not cause pollution and/or may be found to comply with the required norms.

Points made by SC

  • An industry contributing to the country’s economy and providing livelihood needn’t be closed down only on the ground of the technical irregularity of not obtaining prior environmental clearance (EC).
  • The SC said ex post facto clearances and/or approvals couldn’t be declined with pedantic rigidity, regardless of the consequences of stopping the operations.
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