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Chhattisgarh HC stays public hearing on MSP Steel & Power

The petitioner challenges the notification on the ground that it violated the order issued by the Member Secretary in violation of EIA notification 2009 issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

Chhattisgarh High Court
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Chhattisgarh High Court

Mumbai: The Chhattisgarh High Court has issued a stay order on a notification issued by Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board, Raipur (CGECB), for the public hearing on the expansion of production capacity of Suresh Kumar Agrawal led MSP Steel and Power Ltd expansion of mini-integrated steel plant in Jamgaon Village under Raigarh Tehsil of Chhattisgarh.The listed company has a registered office at Kolkata.

"Total land for the existing unit is 42 acres. Company has furtherpurchased 72 acres. Now, it is proposed to acquire 427 acres of land for the expansion and total land after expansion will be 541 Acres,"the company said.

The public hearing was scheduled to be held on November 17, 2021, at Jamgaon Village. Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board, Raipurhad issued the notification on October 13, 2019, to hear the grievances of people to be affected due to the expansion of the plant.

The double bench of Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Gautam Bhaduri Court issued the interim order on a petition filed byRamesh Agrawal, an environment activist. The petition had challengedthe notification on the ground that it violated the order issued bythe Member Secretary in violation of EIA notification 2009 issued bythe Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. ofIndia.

Advocate Rohan submits that as per notification dated 01/12/2009issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, a public hearing isrequired to be completed within a period of 45 days from the date ofreceipt of the request letter from the applicant and that if suchpublic hearing cannot be concluded within the aforesaid period, theCentral Government, Ministry of Environment and Forest, in respect ofCategory 'A' projector activity, in which the present project falls,at the request of the State Level Environment Impact AssessmentAuthority shall engage any other agency or authority to complete theprocess in terms of the notification. Rohan submits that the period of45 days has expired long back, the present notice issued by the MemberSecretary of Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board (CECB), isnot sustainable in law.

The bench said:"Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, step had to betaken for postponing the public hearing and therefore, the contentionof the learned counsel for the petitioner cannot be accepted. Thematter will require detailed consideration. We are, however, of theopinion that in the facts and circumstances of the case, a prima faciecase is made out for an interim order as, admittedly, the period of 45days as envisaged under Clause 7.1 from the date of filing of theapplication by respondent No 7 has expired. Taking that view, whileissuing notice making it returnable of December 15, 2021, we provide that nopublic hearing shall take place on November 17, 2021 in terms of notice dated October 13, 2021 issued by the Member Secretary of ChhattisgarhEnvironmentConservation Board (CECB)."

Talking to Bizz Buzz, Rusen Kumar, editor of India CSR, said: "Transparency is the key for public hearing. Public Hearing is ademocratic process. Community is a key stakeholder of Industrialdevelopment. Every industrial unit should protect community rights andecology and invest more money under Corporate Social Responsibilityprogrammes. The citizens must report the misconduct of IndustrialUnits and Local Government. The Chhattisgarh High Court verdict hasbecome very much relevant."

The public hearing is a mandatory step in the process of environmentalclearance for certain industrial developmental projects in India. Theprovision of public hearing provides a legal space for people of anarea to come face-to-face with the project proponent and thegovernment and express their concerns.

Kumud Das
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