NGT Orders Criminal Prosecution Against TSGENCO
The Southern Zone bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) came down heavily on Telangana State Power Generation Corporation Limited (TSGENCO) for illegally undertaking the construction work of its proposed 4x270MW Bhadradri Thermal Power Plant at Manuguru, Khammam district, Telangana, without obtaining prior statutory clearances such as “Environmental Clearance” under EIA Notification, 2006 and “Consent to Establish” under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air Act (Prevention and Control of Pollution), 1981.
In a significant judgment passed on 11-07-2016 and delivered against TSGENCO in the Application [No. 206 of 2015] moved before it by Human Rights Forum (HRF) organization, the NGT has taken serious note of illegal construction work of the above-said project. Accordingly, the NGT has ordered for criminal prosecution of officials of TSGENCO by Telangana State Pollution Control Board (TSPCB) and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) with four weeks from the date of Judgment, under the respective provisions of above-said legislations. Further, keeping in view of the already undertaken construction activities, the MoEF&CC has been given the direction to take its decision either to grant or reject the Environmental Clearance within eight weeks from the date of Judgment.
It is not the first case where companies have indulged into illegal construction activities of their Thermal Power Plants and have wilfully defaulted with law. Over the years, there have been many instances where companies have undertaken illegal construction activities. However, the statutory criminal action which has to be taken by the State PCBs and MoEF&CC against such illegal works has often been negligible. In a recent RTI Application which has been filed to MoEF&CC asking for details of criminal action which has been taken against companies that have undertaken illegal construction activities, the MoEF&CC replied stating “Such information is not separately maintained” by it. Such reply reveals the lack seriousness of the competent authorities in making the wilful defaulters liable in accordance with law.
Even in the present case, the TSPCB and MoEF&CC have exhibited their non-seriousness in taking action against the TSGENCO before the NGT judgment has been passed. The Applicant organization has repeatedly written to both the authorities to take statutory action against TSGENCO. However, both the authorities have paid complete disregard and have not taken any action against TSGENCO. This situation has been observed by NGT in its own words as “We are at a loss to understand as to why the Board has not chosen to take any penal action against the officials of the third respondent who are responsible for such activity.”
The present Judgment of the NGT gives a clear signal that the companies which default with Law will not be spared and shall be made liable. It is also a serious reminder to the competent authorities on the need for their duty to pro-actively take statutory action on the defaulters of Law