SC overturns NGT order, halts land clearance for greenfield airport in Silchar

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SC overturns NGT order, halts land clearance for greenfield airport in Silchar
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday overturned an order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) rejecting a plea against the land clearance at the Doloo tea estate in Assam’s Silchar for a proposed greenfield airport.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 was broken by the clearing activities that were underway, according to a bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI), D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Consequently, it reversed the NGT’s Eastern Zonal Bench’s ruling and ordered that no action be taken that violates the 2006 notification.

The court also said that by declining to consider the plea, the NGT had disregarded its obligation.

The apex court said, “We are of the view that the authorities in the present case have acted in violation of the notification by carrying out extensive clearance at the site in the absence of environmental clearance. Assam says the need was to set up a civilian airport. The provision of law has to be complied with and no environmental clearance has been issued till date.”

Notably, the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, declared in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court that no work would be done until an environmental clearance was obtained.

The NGT ruling dated March 25 that rejected the argument against the removal of around 41 lakh bushes was the subject of an appeal being heard by the court.

According to the petition filed before the NGT, the airport’s environmental clearance (EC) had not been approved and the EIA report was still pending.

The CJI recommended maintaining a status quo until the environmental clearance report is obtained.

Tushar Mehta contended that on-site labourers also chopped trees for residential use and underlined the necessity of taking the greenfield project’s wind direction into account.

The CJI then referred to a report from the secretary of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) in Cachar district that the court-appointed officer was unable to travel far because of the dense forest and fauna, and that tea bushes had been uprooted by heavy machinery.

The top court recommended against taking any more action until an EIA report was available.

Mehta also argued that ‘erroneous’ claims that houses were being demolished and trees were being felled were misleading the court.

However, the petitioners’ advocate, Prashant Bhushan, contended that trees were also felled in addition to shrubs.

“Social impact assessments also need to be completed. According to the new land purchase statute, the workers are impacted,” he claimed.

According to the top court, 41 lakh bushes had been removed, hence the act could not be considered a routine cleaning.

Setting aside the NGT order, the court said that the Assam government can again request to commence work at the site once the clearance report is received.


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