Rs 1-bn penalty in green landmarks state
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The green bench of the Himachal Pradesh High Court has imposed a penalty of Rs 100 crore on Jaiprakash Associates Limited for setting up a mega cement plant with means the court described as deceitful, besides a captive, thermal power plant without clearance. The court has allowed the 1.75-million-tonne cement plant to stay but ordered dismantling of the 60MW power plant.
In a state that has pioneered green initiatives such as a ban on polythene and an environment protection code for schoolchildren, successive governments' actions on various aspects of the Jaypee Group's project have come under question from the green bench, comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol.
The cement plant, in Solan district, had been cleared on September 9, 2004, by the Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh. The court found that the company had declared the project cost as Rs 90 crore against an actual investment between Rs 400 crore and Rs 500 crore. The court held it was a deliberate undervaluation to circumvent an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, under which projects worth under Rs 100 crore don't need environmental clearance
After the BJP came to power, it took note of the fact that the 325 acres on which the project stood was village common land. The new government regularised this, imposing a penalty of Rs 4.10 crore, besides charging Rs 2.50 crore for diversion of forest land. In 2010, the government ordered that responsibility be fixed on the officers who were party to these irregularities; this is yet to be done.
The Congress government had taken a policy decision not to sanction any thermal power plant. The BJP government reversed it and cleared the Jaypee group's plant. The court said the government did not deal with objections raised earlier and received a proposal from the company within a few hours after the cabinet had decided to allow thermal plants.