Is the MoEFCC Encouraging Environmental Violations?
On 10 May 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a draft Notification proposing a mechanism to deal with projects that have commenced activities before obtaining an environmental clearance [Draft Notification]. Such activities are illegal and amount to criminal offences under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 [EP Act]. The Ministry had previously issued two Office Memoranda laying down the process for dealing with such projects, including requiring the concerned State Government to initiate action under the relevant provisions of the EP Act. But these were struck down by the National Green Tribunal as being ultra vires to the provisions of the EP Act. According to the Ministry, the existing penalty provisions are proving to be inadequate, and a process is underway to introduce stringent civil penalties.5 Till that process is completed, it is faced with ‘almost 400’ projects that have commenced illegally (which have apparently been put on hold for further consideration), and this Draft Notification is expected to provide a solution in the interim.