The hospital had started construction work without obtaining environmental clearance
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on July 26, imposed an environmental compensation charge of Rs 15 crore on Human Health Care Charitable Hospital in Dwarka. The bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, asked the Human Care Charitable Medical Trust, which runs the hospital, to deposit the compensation amount with Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). The judgment states that the amount will be used for restoration and restitution of environment and ecology, but does not specify the kind of restoration work that will be undertaken.
The charitable trust was fined for violating environmental clearance (EC) requirements as stated under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006. The 380-bed hospital, with a total built up area of 46,963.96 square metres, was supposed to obtain an EC under the EIA Notification before commencing project activities. However, NGT noted that when the trust sought an EC in April 2015, construction work had already started and reached an advanced stage.
The trust argued that it had sought an EC after starting project activities because two office memoranda (OM) of the Union environment ministry of December 2012 and June 2013 allowed it subject to conditions imposed by clearance granting authorities. The trust stated that it was because of these OMs that even the state-level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), Delhi, “did not find any deficiency or defect in the application in terms of the Notification of 2006” when the proposal was initially discussed in April 2015.
However, the SEAC later that year noted that construction of the project had advanced considerably without obtaining EC. Considering this to be a violation, the SEAC recommended the matter to the state-level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). The SEIAA in turn recommended that the trust should be prosecuted under provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EP Act), 1986. It also said that construction work at the site should be stopped and delisted the trust’s application for EC. This decision was conveyed to the trust in May 2016.
In the case of the hospital, the NGT cited a precedent from July 2015 when, in the matter of S P Muthuraman v Union of India, it had ordered seven builders from Tamil Nadu to pay a fine of Rs 76 crore for starting construction without EC based on the OMs of the Union environment ministry. The NGT had quashed the two OMs as they were ultra vires or beyond the provisions of the Environment Protection Act. It had noted that “the very purpose of the provisions of Act of 1986 (Environment Protection Act) and the Notification of 2006 stands frustrated by these OMs”.
Referring to the earlier case, the NGT decided on a penalty of Rs 15 crore, an amount which is five per cent of the project cost of the hospital. The bench has also constituted a six-member expert committee to inspect the site and appraise the project. The committee has been asked to submit its report within four weeks.
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