SC penalises Reliance for laying cables through national park

By Kirtiman Awasthi
Published: Thursday 31 May 2007

on april 5, 2007, the Supreme Court imposed a penalty of Rs 1 crore on Reliance Telecom for laying 22 km of optic fibre lines through Madhav National Park (mnp) in Madhya Pradesh without permission from authorities. The company was directed to deposit the amount in the compensatory afforestation fund for undertaking conservation activities in mnp. Reliance Telecom was directed to deposit the penalty within a month.

The order came after the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (cec) recommended strict action against the company for trying to evade the net present value--the payment made for diversion of forestland for non-forest had directed cec to look into the matter in response to an application filed by Santosh Bharti, editor of Sabki Khabar, a daily, about the violation of the Forest Conservation Act (fca), 1980. Permission to lay cables was given by Madhya Pradesh's chief wildlife warden, despite the Union ministry of environment and forests warning that the court's permission was a must. The warden reasoned that the optical fibre would strengthen telecommunication and help control poaching. The state government argued that permission was given under Wildlife Protection Act 1992, and not under fca and so prior permission was not required. But cec disagrees. "Non-forestry activity in a protected area requires approval under both the acts," says M K Jiwrajka, member secretary, cec.

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