Green impact: SC dismisses Rustomjee plea on Rs 1-crore fine

Mumbai: In a setback to city's renowned developer, Rustomjee Group, the Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed its appeal challenging the orders of the National Free Tribunal (NGT), which ordered the real estate giant to cough up a whopping Rs one crore as fine.

The NGT had imposed the fine upon the group for carrying out illegal construction in Suburban Bandra. A bench of Justices Dhananjay Chandrachud and was dealing with Rustomjee's appeal against the orders of the NGT.

The principal seat of NGT had in February this year, imposed the fine on Rustomjee and had also constituted a five-member committee to conduct a ‘carrying capacity’ study of Mumbai and other cities.

A full bench of the NGT had also said, "Bombay is a highly congested city and any further constructions must be strictly legal."

The orders were passed while considering a plea filed by Anil Tharthare, a Bandra resident, who accused the developer of bypassing the mandatory procedure in constructing its Oriana Residential Project.

“The FSI of the project was hiked from 2.5 to 4.14 and environment clearance was directly given by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) without referring the matter to the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC),” claimed advocate Aditya Pratap, who appeared for Tharthare.

Pratap argued the developer had commenced construction without obtaining the mandatory ‘environment clearance’ from the authorities.

Having considered all the contentions, the SC bench led by Justice Chandrachud, said, "It is true that there may exist certain situations where the expansion sought by a project proponent is truly marginal or the environmental impact of such expansion is non-existent.

However, it is not for this court to lay down a bright-line test as to what constitutes a marginal increase and what constitutes a material increase warranting a fresh Form 1 and scrutiny by the Expert Appraisal Committee."

The apex court bench, however, said it does not have any doubt that whenever the size of the project increases, there is a direct increment in the magnitude of the project's environmental impact.

In its orders, the bench noted that the NGT had already ordered for constitution of a committee to study and evaluate the impact of the construction activity on the environment.

"In view of these circumstances, we uphold the directions of the NGT and direct the committee continue its evaluation of the project so as to bring its environmental impact as close as possible to that contemplated in the notification issued on May 2 2013," Justice Dhanjay ordered.

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