Isha Foundation exempted from prior environment clearance: Centre tells Madras High Court

Jaggi Vasudev’s foundation gets exemption on grounds for promoting education

Shuchita Jha
Published: Tuesday 27 September 2022
The Tamil Nadu government had initiated prosecution against yoga guru Jaggi Vasudev’s foundation in January 2022. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Yoga guru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha foundation is qualified for exemption from prior environmental clearances as the foundation was promoting education, the central government told the Madras High Court September 26, 2022. 

The court was hearing a petition by the Foundation challenging a Tamil Nadu government’s notice. 

The Tamil Nadu government had initiated prosecution against Vasudev’s foundation in January 2022 for starting construction at its premises without obtaining environmental clearance under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006. The foundation had challenged the notice, calling it illegal. 

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A bench of Acting Chief Justice T Raja and Justice D Krishnakumar was dealing with the plea by Isha Foundation, reported legal news website LiveLaw. The TN government initiated prosecution against the foundation for carrying out construction work from 2006-2014 at Coimbatore without the necessary clearance. 

The 2014 Environment Protection Amendment Rules of the Government of India granted exemption from such clearance to educational institutes, industrial sheds, and hospitals, Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan told the bench.

Isha Foundation could claim such exemption on the ground of being an institute that promotes education, reported another legal news website Bar and Bench.

The purpose of the exemption was to prevent "harassment and to strike a balance”, the media report quoted ASG Sankaranarayanan as saying.

The foundation had been carrying out construction at its premises spread over 48.3 hectares in Velliangiri hills on the outskirts of Coimbatore, since 1994, even before the said rules were introduced, it further argued. 

The foundation imparts courses on yoga, classical arts and Sanskrit. Of late, it has also started running schools affiliated to ICSE.

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TN Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram had previously argued that while the state government had already initiated proceedings against Isha Foundation, it was for the centre to clarify on the issue of exemption, said the Bar and Bench report.

The bench had questioned the rationale behind such exemption granted by the central government, the report said.

“Are educational institutions above the law? You are the one who makes the rules and then you yourself grant exemptions,” the high court said.

But changing his mind half-way through the hearing, Justice T Raja said that if such exemption was not granted to educational institutes, then prestigious institutes such as the Kodaikanal International School and Doon School would not exist.

The court then adjourned the matter to September 28 and asked the Centre to inform specifically how the Institution would come within the exempted category, said the Live Law report.

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