SC orders ‘post decisional’ public hearing in Environmental clearance granted to Steel Plant in Gujarat [Read Judgment]

SC orders ‘post decisional’ public hearing in Environmental clearance granted to Steel Plant in Gujarat [Read Judgment]

In a relief to Electrotherm (India) Ltd., the Supreme Court has modified the order of Gujarat High Court which had required it to shut down its Steel and pipe manufacturing plant in Bhachau block of Kutch district in Gujarat. The Apex Court, disposing of the appeal by the Company, permitting it to function, also directed the authorities to conduct ‘post decisional’ public hearing in this case.

The Three judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice T.S. Thakur, however agreed with the High Court observation that the decision making process in granting Environmental clearance in doing away with or in granting exemption from public consultation/public hearing, was not based on correct principles and as such the decision was invalid and improper.

The Court observed that after it got Environmental Clearance in 2010, the company had undertaken expansion of the project. Since the expansion has been undertaken and the industry has been functioning, we do not deem it appropriate to order closure of the entire plant as directed by the High Court, the Bench said.

Relegating the matter back to the Authorities to effectuate public consultation/public hearing, the court observed: “If the public consultation/public hearing results in a negative mandate against the expansion of the project, the Authorities would do well to direct and ensure scaling down of the activities to the level that was permitted by Environmental Clearance dated 20.02.2008. If public consultation/public hearing reflects in favour of the expansion of the project, Environmental Clearance dated 27.01.2010 would hold good and be fully operative. In other words, at this length of time when the expansion has already been undertaken, in the peculiar facts of this case and in order to meet ends of justice, we deem it appropriate to change the nature of requirement of public consultation/public hearing from pre-decisional to post-decisional. The public consultation/public hearing shall be organized by the concerned authorities in three months from today.”

Read the Judgment here.