In a landmark judgment, the green bench of the Himachal Pradesh High Court Friday imposed Rs.100 crore in damages on Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. (JAL), a subsidiary of the JP Group, for having set up a cement plant and the dismantling of a thermal plant, both in the state’s Solan district, by violating environment laws and making false pleas before the authorities and the court.
The bench cancelled permissions for the 62 MW captive thermal plant and directed that it be dismantled within three months.The court also set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to fix official responsibility for allowing the illegality.
The court’s order came on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Nalagarh-based environment NGO Himparivesh Environment Protection Society, which had been fighting the battle against the company on different fronts.
The division bench, comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol observed that the entire foundation of the environmental clearance obtained by JP Associates is based on falsehood as the company lied about the cost of the cement plant.
The court said that JAL managed to get permission for the thermal plant without Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance. “Even after it was brought to the notice of the company that EIA clearance was required, it continued to build the thermal Plant,” it said.
The court observed that JAL successfully misled and hoodwinked the state government, H.P. State Pollution Control Board, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Environment Appraisal Committee and all other authorities.
It said the authorities and the officials who were manning these authorities are supposed to act like watch dogs to fiercely protect the interest of the public. “They unfortunately behaved like meek lambs being led for slaughter,” the court said.