The Supreme Court has set aside the direction of National Green Tribunal ordering status quo on construction of a housing complex adjacent to the Delhi University campus. Applying the "Precautionary Principle" of environmental law, the NGT on January 8 had ordered the status quo and said that evaluation of relevant data was required by a joint Committee comprising representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests and IIT Delhi.
A bench, comprising Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna, said on Tuesday that when the counter affidavit along with the documents was available on record, a detailed consideration was necessary by the tribunal.
Only if any further report was required, the question of constituting a committee would have arisen, the bench said.
However, such consideration is not indicated in the NGT order before constituting joint committee for evaluation, it said.
"The consequential interim order passed would also, therefore, not be sustainable. In that view, the appropriate course would be for the NGT to take note of the contentions put forth by the appellant (builder) herein through their counter affidavit and the environmental clearance and take a decision in the matter," the bench said.
"On referring to the contention and materials, the reason for the same not being sufficient or reliable would be an aspect to be recorded and take such further action. To enable such exercise the order impugned dated January 8 is liable to be set aside, which we accordingly hereby do," the bench said.
The apex court directed the NGT to take note of the counter affidavit and the documents of the appellant and consider the matter on its merits and pass orders in accordance with law.
"The same shall be done in an expeditious manner. All contentions of the parties are left open," the top court said.
The lawyer, appearing for Young Builders (P) Ltd, referred to the manner in which the proceedings had progressed before the NGT.
He said the tribunal did not deem it appropriate to grant any interim orders on the previous hearings held on 21 occasions but has abruptly proceeded to pass the order of status quo without referring to the counter statement which was filed on August 10, 2018 and was on record.
The apex court was hearing an appeal by Young Builders against NGT January 8 order.
The tribunal had passed the order on a plea by Delhi University challenging the environmental clearance granted to a housing project by Young Builders (P) Ltd in North Delhi.
The plea challenged the order of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority granting Environmental Clearance (EC) for the housing complex located at 1 and 3 Cavalry Lane and 4 Chhatra Marg at Civil Lines here.
It said EC could be granted by the Ministry of Environment AND Forests and not by SEIAA as the project is within 10 km from Critically Polluted Area, notified by CPCB.
"Najafgarh, Naraina, Wazirpur and Anand Parbat are critically polluted areas. The project is in Silence Zone being within 100 m from Delhi University and Patel Chest Institute. The area is in water scarcity zone. The Sulphate content of groundwater is above the specified limit.
"As per the project proponent's own report, the project is susceptible to subsidence and liquefaction during major earthquake. Geo-Technical investigation needs to be carried out which has not been done. Traffic plans/congestion filed by the project proponent with the application is based on the statistics of July 2011," the plea said.