“Environmental compensation” of Rs 15 crore imposed upon a Hospital for violating environmental clearance rules

National Green Tribunal (NGT):  NGT has imposed an “environmental compensation” of Rs 15 crore on Human Health Care Charitable Hospital in Dwarka, New Delhi for beginning construction without obtaining environmental clearance. The Tribunal asked the Human Care Charitable Medical Trust, which runs the hospital, to deposit the compensation amount with Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). The charitable trust was fined for violating environmental clearance (EC) requirements as stated under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2006 made it mandatory for all construction projects above 20,000 sq metres to obtain prior EC. However, when the Trust sought an EC in April 2015, construction work had already started. Before the Tribunal, the hospital contended that it was not aware of the requirement as Delhi Development Authority did not raise such an objection earlier. It was further contended by the Hospital that the Trust applied for an EC to the state-level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) in April, 2015. At that time, there were three office memorandums (OM) by the environment ministry dated November 16, 2010, December 12, 2012 and June 27, 2013 which provided that environmental clearance could be granted in cases where the construction activity had already started. NGT rejected the said contention of the Trust and noted that the said Office Memorandums were declared as ultra-vires by the Tribunal vide its earlier judgment in S.P. Muthuraman v. Union of India,  2015 SCC OnLine NGT 169, and the Tribunal will apply the principles laid down in S.P. Muthuraman case, in this case also. NGT imposed a compensation of Rs 15 crore, an amount which is five per cent of the project cost of the hospital. The Tribunal also constituted a six-member expert committee to inspect the site and appraise the project and asked the Committee to submit its report within four weeks. “The amount of compensation shall be deposited with the DPCC and would be utilised for restoration and restitution of environment and ecology, subject to orders of the Tribunal,” NGT added. [Human Care Charitable Medical Trust v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 292, decided on July 26, 2016]

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