Nagpur News : The Hon’ble Bombay High Court comprising of Hon’ble Justice A. P. Lavande and Justice A. B. Chaudhary has issued notices to Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Nagpur, The District Collector Wardha, M/s Lanco Vidarbha Thermal Power Co. Ltd and Ministry of Environment and Forest, New Delhi in PIL No:-02/2013 filed by Maruti Dhongade and three other villagers in the District Wardha, challenging the validity and legality of the “Public Hearing” conducted by the MPCB for the grant of “Environmental Clearance” to run the 660 X 2 MW Power Plant in Wardha.
The MPCB has issued Public Notice in newspapers on 16-05-2012 and announced the venue for “Public Hearing” at Stadium in Wardha which was 25 KM away from the project site. The MPCB has issued the notice for public hearing on the specific directions of the High Court in PIL No:-78/2010, when the earlier Public Hearing was cancelled on account of being vitiated due to ruckus by the company officials. The petitioners contended that the Public Hearing was managed by the company in connivance of the MPCB officials as it was conducted right in the middle of the sowing season and that too 25 km away from the project site on 20-06-2012 so that majority of the farmers would not reach. The petitioners contended that “The District Collector” has no powers to decide the date, time and venue as against the Member Secretary of MPCB. The date and venue did not ensure the “widest possible public participation” as the venue was 25 KM away causing great inconvenience and was detrimental to poor farmers.
The petitioners have also alleged that the “Public Hearing” is violative of the MOEF Notifications dated 14-09-2006 and 01-12-2009 and against the statutory provisions hence must be set aside. The petitioners have also alleged that the Minutes of the Public Hearing were not written in Marathi and were not read over after the end of the hearing. The public hearing which ought to have been completed within 45 days of the application was deliberately conducted after seven months to give undue advantage to the Lanco Co. The minutes were not sent to the Ministry of Environment and various Gram-Panchayat within eight days. The petitioners also contended that the Lanco Power Ltd has purchased the views of the poor laborers who were brought to the venue and were compelled to speak in favour of the company by either promising a job in the company or by making an extraneous payment of Rs.200/-. In all, the petitioners alleged that the Public Hearing was not held in an atmosphere of solemnity and was a complete farce.
The petitioners are espousing the cause of hundreds of the poor villagers residing in 40 villages within vicinity of the project, and have demanded the quashing of the “Public Hearing” on the ground that it is violative of statutory provisions of Environmental Protection Rules 1986.
The Hon’ble High Court has issued the notices and directed the respondents to file the affidavits in two weeks.
Adv. Tushar Mandlekar argued for the petitioners. Adv. Pathan waived the notices for the District Collector.