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Chief justice J.S. Khehar rejects idea of prior approval of eco-sensitive projects

LiveMint logoLiveMint 25-03-2017 PTI

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar on Saturday rejected the suggestion of attorney general Mukul Rohatgi that the government, judiciary and other stakeholders should evolve a mechanism to clear eco-sensitive projects at the outset.

Referring to the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) framed in 1991, the attorney general said tourism industry has taken a hit as existing laws do not allow construction within the periphery of 500 metres along seashores while countries like the Maldives have constructed hotels on the beaches.

He suggested that governments, judiciary, civil society and other stakeholders should come together and evolve a mechanism to ensure that eco-sensitive projects are cleared at the start and they should not remain stuck for decades during the construction stage or after completion.

The CJI, however, said when any project is formulated by the government, it is the duty of the administration to think of environment and ecology and courts cannot interfere unless the existing environment is changed. Justice Khehar did not agree to the suggestion that there should not be a prolonged litigation after a project is either conceived or under implementation or has been completed.

“When the Attorney General referred to the CRZ and the comparison with tourist spots in India and other countries, it seemed as if we were competing with somebody. Environment is not a matter of competition and encompasses humanity at large. When a programme is sponsored by the government it is well within the framework to draw a policy which will protect the environment. You may construct hotels, you may construct whatever you wish to, but have regulations for environmental protection and no court can ever interfere.

“The possibility of interference is when the existing environment is altered or when townships are raised without dealing with sewerage and water that is when the problem arises. The problem emerges when we allow industrialisation without any quick measures. The policy of the government in India and elsewhere has to be to allow development in industry but with by taking due care of environment. That’s the way forward,” the CJI said.

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