Vi­o­lat­ing green norms? Get ready for prison

Jail term pro­posed in new rules for realty play­ers who start con­struc­tion work with­out en­vi­ron­ment clearance

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

The min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment and forests (MoEF) is plan­ning to no­tify a fresh pro­ce­dure that will make it manda­tory for real es­tate de­vel­op­ers to pay a stiff penalty and even face im­pris­on­ment if they start con­struc­tion of hous­ing projects with­out prior en­vi­ron­ment clear­ances.

“Most cases per­tain to get­ting en­vi­ron­ment clear­ances after start­ing con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity. It is im­por­tant for the gov­ern­ment to see how such vi­o­la­tions are brought into the le­gal frame­work. We want to cre­ate a le­gal frame­work within which one can deal with such cases where en­vi­ron­ment clear­ances were not taken be­fore start­ing con­struc­tion but this by no means im­plies that the gov­ern­ment wants to en­cour­age such a prac­tice. But we do re­quire a sys­tem to deal with such con­tin­gen­cies,” says Ashok Lavasa, sec­re­tary, min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment, forests and cli­mate change.

The min­istry is con­tem­plat­ing cat­e­goris­ing of­fences and link­ing the penalty to the grav­ity of the of­fence. It is work­ing to­wards en­sur­ing that the ‘pol­luters-pay prin­ci­ple’ is im­ple­mented. It pro­poses to re­tain the pro­vi­sion of im­pris­on­ment in case of se­ri­ous of­fences.

“Heavy mone­tary penalty is be­ing con­tem­plated for de­vel­op­ers who pro­ceed with con­struc­tion prior to get­ting an en­vi­ron­ment clearance. Hav­ing said that, one also has to make a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the type of vi­o­la­tions that are grave and tech­ni­cal, se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tions and those with not so se­ri­ous con­se­quences,” Lavasa adds.

Go­ing for­ward, the min­istry is also hold­ing talks with the min­istry of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment to give au­thor­i­ties that grant per­mis­sion for con­struc­tion under build­ing byelaws to in­clude en­vi­ron­ment clear­ances as part of the byelaws. This will help sim­plify pro­ce­dures.

Last month, while hear­ing a batch of ap­peals filed by sev­eral builders from Tamil Nadu who were or­dered by the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) to de­posit heavy fines for not get­ting en­vi­ron­ment clear­ances be­fore start­ing con­struc­tion work on their projects, the Supreme Court had warned realty com­pa­nies against launch­ing projects first and then go­ing in for post-facto ap­provals.

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