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Thursday, August 4, 2016

exemption from public consultation/public hearing - not good = 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. =we cannot lose sight of the fact that in pursuance of Environmental Clearance dated 27.01.2010, the expansion of the project has been undertaken and as reported by CPCB in its affidavit filed on 07.07.2014, most of the recommendations made by CPCB are complied with. In our considered view, the interest of justice would be sub-served if that part of the decision exempting public consultation/public hearing is set aside and the matter is relegated back to the concerned Authorities to effectuate public consultation/public hearing. However, 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. 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.

                                                              Non-Reportable

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                      CIVIL APPEAL NO.  7222   of 2016
                (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No.16860 of 2012)




M/s Electrotherm (India) Ltd.                                ….Appellant


                                   Versus


Patel Vipulkumar Ramjibhai & Ors.                          …. Respondents




                               J U D G M E N T

Uday Umesh Lalit, J.


Leave granted.



This appeal challenges the judgment and order  dated  11.05.2012  passed  by
the High Court of Gujarat allowing Special  Civil  Application  No.5986/2010
setting aside the Environmental Clearance  dated  27.01.2010  and  directing
that the operations of the entire plant of  the  Appellant  be  stopped  and
that the operations  could  be  continued  only  after  fresh  Environmental
Clearance was accorded in its favour by  the  Ministry  of  Environment  and
Forests and Union of India.


The Environment Impact Assessment Notification dated  27.01.1994  issued  by
the Central Government in exercise of powers  conferred  by   sub-section(1)
and  Clause  V  of  sub-section(2)   of  Section  3   of   the   Environment
(Protection) Act, 1986 read with Clause(d) of sub-rule(2) of Rule 5  of  the
Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 stipulated inter alia that in  case  of
expansion or modernization of any  activity,   if  pollution  load  exceeded
the existing  one or the new project was listed in Schedule I  to  the  said
Notification,   such  activity  would   not   be   undertaken   unless   the
Environmental  Clearance  was  accorded  by  the  Central  Government.  Same
thought was carried and  finds  expressly  stipulated  in  the  Notification
dated 14.09.2006 issued by the Central Government  in  supersession  of  the
Notification dated 27.01.1994. The Notification  dated  14.09.2006  directed
that the  required  construction  of  new  projects  or  activities  or  the
expansion or  modernization  of existing projects or  activities  listed  in
the Schedule to the Notification  entailing capacity  addition  with  change
in  process  and  or  technology  would  be  undertaken  only  after   prior
Environmental Clearance from the Central Government or as the  case  may  be
by the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority.  Clauses  2  and
4  of  the  Notification  deal  with  requirements  of  prior  Environmental
Clearance  and  Categorization  of  Projects  and  Activities  respectively.
Under Clause 7 Environmental Clearance process comprises of four  stages  in
sequential  order,  namely,  (1)-  Screening,  (2)   Scoping,   (3)   Public
Consultation and (4) Appraisal.


4.    The Appellant set  up  a  Steel  Plant  at  Village  Samakhiyali,  for
manufacturing  various  products  after  having   received   No    Objection
Certificate  from Gujarat Pollution Control Board (“GPCB”,   for  short)  on
25.02.2005,  which  thereafter  granted  consent  vide  Authorization  Order
dated 10.11.2005 for manufacture of  Pig Iron,  Steel  Billets/Slabs,  Steel
Bars and Rods, etc.

5.    The Appellant had set up the Plant  and  begun  manufacturing  process
and  later  by  its  letter  dated  30.11.2007  applied  for   Environmental
Clearance.   On 20.02.2008 the Government of India, Ministry of  Environment
and Forests granted Environmental Clearance, the relevant  portions  of  the
Clearance being:-

“2.0  The Ministry of Environment and Forests has examined the  application.
 It is noted M/s. Electrotherm (India) Ltd. have proposed expansion  of  Pig
Iron Plant (150 to 350 TPD)  with  Captive  Lignite/Coal  char  based  Power
Plant (24 MW) and  WHRB  (6MW)  at  Samakhiyali,  Bhachhu,  Kutch,  Gujarat.
Total project area is 100.6276 ha. and expansion  will  be  carried  out  in
20.79 ha. No National Park of Wildlife Sanctuary is  located  within  10  km
………………………...............................
……….. Total cost of project is Rs. 90.00 Crores……………...

3.0 Iron ore will be reduced in  a  Blast  Furnace.   ESP  dust  collectors,
venture scrubbers, bag letters will be provided  to  control  are  emissions
from WHRB, AFBSC, Boiler, Crusher House etc.  Gas will be  cleaned  in  GCP.
Total water requirement of 650 M/day  will  be  supplied  by  Gujarat  water
Supply and Sewage Board  (GWSSB)  Zero  Discharge  will  be  adopted.   Fine
particles of coke, iron ore and ETP sludge will be recycled  and  reused  in
the process.  BF Slag will be sold to cement manufacturers of used for  road
construction.  Fly ash will be  used  in  the  captive  brick  manufacturing
plant.  Char from the sponge iron plant will be 100%  utilized  in  the  FBC
boiler.

4.0   Public hearing/Public consultation meeting  was  held  on  12th  June,
2007.

5.0   The Ministry of Environment and Forests hereby  accords  Environmental
Clearance the above project under EIA  Notification  dated  14th  September,
2006 subject to strict compliance of the following conditions………………………”


The Environmental Clearance then sets out certain  specific  conditions  and
general conditions.



6.    The Appellant thereafter, applied for expansion of Steel  Plant.   The
matter was dealt with in the Ninety  First  Meeting  of  the  Re-constituted
Expert  Appraisal   Committee   (Industry)   held   during   9-11  February,
2009.



The Appellant had informed that Public hearing for the previous project  was
held on 12.06.2007 and that the  proposed  expansion  would  be  within  the
existing industrial premises and no extra  land  would  be  required.    The
matter was dealt with by the Committee and the relevant minutes were :-

“PAs vide letter dated 29th December,  2008  informed  that  Public  hearing
for  the  previous  project  was  held  on  12th  June,  2007,  for   which,
Environmental  Clearance  was  accorded   vide   Ministry’s   letter   No.J-
11011/503/2006/IA-II(I) dated 20th February, 2008. It is also informed  that
proposed expansion will be within the existing industrial  premises  and  no
extra land will be required.



M/s Electrotherm (India) Ltd. have proposed   for  the  expansion  of  Steel
plant at Milestone No.  310  of  NH  No.  8A,  Village  Samkhiyali,   Taluka
Bhachau,  Kutch, Gujarat.  PAs have mentioned that  Sponge Iron,  DI  Pipes,
 Steel Rolling Mill, Induction Furnace  are  existing  after  getting  ‘NOC’
from GPCB.  Environment clearance for Pig Iron Plant  and  CPP  (30  MW)  is
accorded vide letter dated 20th February, 2008.  Expansion will  be  carried
out in 20.24 ha within the existing industrial premises  of  100.62  ha.  No
National Park/Wild Life Sanctuary/Reserve Forest is  located  within  10  km
radius of the project site.  Total cost of the project is Rs.274.00  Crores.
 Rs.5.89 Crores and Rs.0.40 Crores will be earmarked towards  total  capital
cost and recurring cost/annum for environmental pollution control  measures.
………….

Iron Ore (65,400 MTPM), Limestone (8,856 MTPM), Manganese  Ore  (465  MTPM),
Quartizite (1,068 MTPM),  Dolomite (2,471  MTPM)  and  Lime  Dolofines  (968
MTPM) will be used as raw material.

      Sponge Iron will be produced using DRI method.   Iron  oxide  will  be
chemically reduced to  ‘hot metal’ in Blast furnace.    Sinter   Plant  will
use iron ore fines, mill scales and flue  dust.   Sinter  produced  will  be
used in BF Billets  from Steel Melt Shop (SMS) will be  put into  Billet  in
Reheating Furnace.  Reheated  Billets will be used to manufacture TMT  Bars.
 Pig Iron will be heated in Induction Furnace (IF)   to  prepare  Duct  Iron
pipes. Scrap and sponge iron will be changed to  IF   and   then  poured  to
Ladle Refining Furnace (LRF) and then molten material will  be   changed  to
continuous casting machine (CCM) to produce billets, rods and  bars.   Waste
gases from DRI will be used in WHRB.  No AFBC is proposed during expansion.

      ESP will be provided to WHRB. Waste gases will be used  in Waste  Heat
Recovery  Boiler  (WHRB)  before  disposing  of  through  stack.    Fugitive
emissions will be controlled  by dust suppression  measures.   Gas  cleaning
system will be provided to BF.  Bag  filters/wet  cleaning  system  will  be
provided to BF.  Bag  house will be provided to Pig Iron Plant. ESP will  be
provided to Sinter plant.  Multi-cyclone  will  be  provided  to  re-heating
furnace.  Bag filters will be provided  to  product  handling  and  transfer
points.  Dust suppression system i.e. water sprinkling will be  provided  to
conveyer, transfer points, loading and unloading areas.

      Total water requirement from Gujarat Water Infrastructure Ltd.  (GWIL)
will be 2,165 m3/day.  PAs submitted the water allotment letter  dated  22nd
October, 2008 from GWIL.  Air-cooled condenser will  be  provided  to  WHRB.
The waste water from power plant will be treated  in  neutralization  plant.
Treated  waste  water  will  be  used  for  water  sprinkling  during   dust
suppression and green belt development.  Sewage will be disposed of  through
septic tank & soak pit.

      Fly ash (2,820 MTPM), bed ash (600  MTPM)  will  be  used  in  captive
brick manufacturing plant  and  additionally  have  a  tie  up  with  Cement
manufacturing units.  Coal char (5,400 MTPM) will be used in existing  power
plant.  Slag (5,124 MTPM) will be sold to cement/brick manufacturing  units.
 Iron ore fines, mill scale, flue dust etc. will be used  in  Sinter  Plant.
BF  slag  will  be  granulated  and  provided   to   cement   manufacturers.
Used/spent oil will be sold to authorized recyclers.

      Out of total 100.62  ha,  green  belt  is  earmarked  for  8  ha.   in
existing and 5.47 ha. in proposed  expansion.   Thus,  total  13.47  ha.  is
proposed for the green belt development.  Coke, coal  and  waste  heat  from
DRI will be used as fuel………………………………………………………”



7.    After setting out  the  details  of  the  proposed  expansion  of  the
project as aforesaid, the decision of the Expert Committee was as under:

“The Expert Committee (Industry) decided that PAs may  be  communicated  the
above ‘TORs’ for the preparation of EIA/EMP.  As soon as the  draft  EIA/EMP
report is prepared as per the ‘General Structure of EIA’ given  in  Appendix
III and IIIA in the EIA Notification, 2006, the same  may  be  submitted  by
the PAs to the MOEF for prior Environmental Clearance.  PAs informed to  the
Committee that Environment Clearance has been accorded to  M/s  Electrotherm
India Ltd. for the existing plant vide  letter  dated  20th  February,  2008
with public hearing on 12th June, 2007  and  requested  for  the  exemption.
The Committee considered the request and exempted from  the  public  hearing
as per Section 7(ii) of EIA Notification, 2006 due  to  no  additional  land
requirement, ground water drawl,  utilization of DR and BF gases in  WHRB  &
char in AFBC boiler,  fly ash and BF slag to cement manufacturers, etc.”


8.     The matter was  thereafter  considered  for  grant  of  Environmental
Clearance  which came to be granted by  Government  of  India,  Ministry  of
Environment  and  Forests  by   communication  dated   27.01.2010,  relevant
portion of which was:-

“The Ministry of Environment and Forests has examined the  application.   It
is noted that proposal is for the expansion  of  Steel  plant  at  Milestone
No.310 of NH No.8A, Village-Samkhiyali, Taluka Bhachau,  Kutch,  Gujarat  by
M/s. Electrotherm India Limited.  Expansion will be carried out in 21.43  ha
within the existing industrial premises of 11.46 ha. No  National  Park/Wild
Life Sanctuary/Reserve Forest is located within 10 km radius of the  project
site.  Total cost of the project  is  Rs.274.00  crores.   Sponge  Iron,  DI
Pipes, Steel Rolling Mill, Induction Furnace are existing after getting  ‘No
Objection  Certificate’  from  Gujarat  Pollution  Control   Board   (GPCB).
‘Consent  to  Establish’  is  also  obtained  from  GPCB  vide  consent  No.
PC/CCA/KUTCH-294/28080,  dated  13th  September,  2006   and   PC/CCA-KUTCH-
294(3)13208  dated  30th  April,  2008.   Environmental  Clearance  for  the
existing plant (Pig Iron Plant and Captive Power Plant (30 MW)  is  accorded
vide Ministry’s letter  No.J-11011/503/2006-IA-II(I)  dated  20th  February,
2008.  Following are the details of the existing and proposed facilities:

|Sr.No. |Products      |             Production Capacity |
|       |              |(MTPM)                           |
|       |              |Existing |Proposed    |Total     |
|1      |Sponge Iron   |6,000    |18,000      |24,000    |
|2      |D.I. Pipes    |4,000    |12,000      |16,000    |
|3      |Captive Power |30 MW    |15 MW       |45 MW     |
|       |WHRB          |6 MW     |15 MW       |21 MW     |
|       |FBC           |24 MW    |            |24 MW     |
|4      |Pig Iron      |4,500    |18,600      |23,100    |
|       |(Blast        |         |            |          |
|       |Furnace)      |         |            |          |
|5      |Sinter Plant  |-        |32,400      |32,400    |
|6      |Steel Rolling |5,833    |10,500      |16,333    |
|       |Mill          |         |            |          |
|7      |MS            |5,833    |30,000      |35,833    |
|       |Billets/Bars  |         |            |          |
|8      |Stainless     |25,000   |--          |25,000    |
|       |Steel Billets |         |            |          |
|9      |Alloy Nickel  |416      |--          |416       |
|10     |Induction     |17Sets/Mo|--          |17 sets   |
|       |Furnaces      |nth      |            |          |
|11     |Electric Cycle|83 Sets/ |--          |83 sets   |
|       |and Vehicle   |Month    |            |          |

3.0 Sponge Iron will be produced using  DRI  method.   Iron  oxide  will  be
chemically reduce to ‘hot metal’ in blast furnace (BF).  Sinter  plant  will
use iron ore fines, mill scales and flue  dust.   Sinter  produced  will  be
used in BF.  Pig Iron will be heated in induction furnace  (IF)  to  prepare
duct iron pipes.  Scrap and sponge iron will  be  charged  to  IF  and  then
poured to ladle refining furnace (LRF) and  then  molten  material  will  be
changed to continuous casting machine (CCM) to  produce  billets,  rods  and
bars.  Billets from steel  melt  shop  (SMS)  will  be  put  into  reheating
furnace to manufacture TMT bars.  Waste gases  from  DRI  will  be  used  in
WHRB. No AFBC is proposed during expansion since it already exists.

4.0   Electrostatic precipitator (ESP), dust settling chamber  (DSC),  after
burning chamber (ABC), gas cleaning system  with  bag  house,  bag  filters,
multi-cyclones, dust collectors, stack of adequate height, dust  suppression
and extraction system will be provided  to  control  air  emissions.   Total
water requirement from Gujarat Water  Infrastructure  Ltd.  (GWIL)  will  be
2,165 m³/day and water is allotted vide letter  dated  22nd  October,  2008.
No ground water will be utilized.  Air-cooled condenser will be provided  to
WHRB.  No waste water will be discharged from sponge iron  plant,  pig  iron
plant,  sinter  plant,  WHRB  power  plant,  TMT  bar  plant,  BI  pipe  and
induction/arc furnace.  The waste water from power  plant  will  be  treated
and used for dust suppression and green belt development.   Coal  char  will
be used in existing power plant, coal dust in the boiler,  iron  ore  fines,
mill scales, flue dust etc. in sinter  plant.   Fly  ash  will  be  used  in
captive brick manufacturing plant and also provided to cement  manufacturing
units.

Slag will be sold to cement/brick manufacturing  units.   Bed  ash  will  be
disposed off in secured landfills.

5.0   Public hearing for the existing plant was held on 12th June, 2007  and
is  exempted  for  the  proposed  exemption  as  per  Section-7(ii)  of  EIA
Notification, 2006.”


 9.   On or about 10.05.2010 Respondent  No.1  herein  filed  Special  Civil
Application No.5986 of  2010  in  the  High  Court  of  Gujarat,  in  public
interest,  seeking  revocation  of  Environment  Clearance  granted  to  the
Appellant for expansion of its plant. It was submitted inter alia that as  a
result of expansion the proposed capacity and activities  of  the  Appellant
were to increase substantially and that the Environmental Clearance  granted
for expansion of plant was not in conformity with EIA Notification of  2006.
The Appellant which was Respondent No. 3 in the High  Court,  in  its  reply
submitted inter alia that the  petition  was  not  in  public  interest  and
Respondent No.1 was set up by the business rivals of the Appellant and  that
the Appellant had complied with all  the  norms  and  requirements  and  was
rightly granted Environment  Clearance  for  expansion  of  the  plant.  The
responses filed on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and  Forest,  Govt.
of India and  Gujarat  Pollution  Control  Board  also  submitted  that  the
Environmental Clearance was rightly granted and that the activities  of  the
Appellant were periodically and regularly being  monitored  to  ensure  that
stipulated Environmental safeguards were complied with.

10.   After hearing rival submissions, the High Court by  its  judgment  and
order dated 11.5.2012 allowed Special  Civil  Application  No.5986  of  2010
principally on the ground that the Environmental Clearance  dated  27.1.2010
was granted without there being public consultation or public hearing  which
was a mandatory requirement under 2006 Notification.   The  observations  of
the High Court in that behalf were as under:-

“18.  The facts to a certain extent have disturbed us for the simple  reason
that respondent no.3 set-up its unit of steel plant in  the  year  2005  and
started operating the same fullfledge.   However,  till  2008  they  had  no
Environmental Clearance and it is only for the first time vide  order  dated
20th February 2008 Environmental Clearance was  granted  and  that  too  for
expansion.   Subsequently,  once   again   in   2009,   they   applied   for
Environmental  Clearance  as  they  proposed  to  increase  the   production
capacity  almost  three  times  the  existing  capacity,  for   which   also
Environmental Clearance was granted but without giving  any  public  hearing
or public consultation.

19.   Thus, the only question for our consideration is  as  to  whether  the
Environmental Clearance dated 27.1.2010 can be  termed  as  illegal  in  the
absence of public consultation or public hearing as mandatorily provided  by
Notifications dated 2006.  We agree with learned Counsel Mr. Oza that  there
is a basic  flaw  in  the  Environmental  Clearance  granted  in  favour  of
respondent No.3.  It is apparent that when public hearing took place in  the
year 2007, the same  was  on  the  basis  of  the  first  application  which
respondent No.3 had preferred for expansion of the steel plant.   Objections
were  raised  by  the  persons  concerned.   However,   when   Environmental
Clearance came to be granted vide order dated 27th January 2010 pursuant  to
the second application dated 8th June 2009 preferred by respondent no.3  for
enhancing the production capacity, the requirement of public  hearing/public
consultation was waived by the authority on the assumption that in the  year
2007 public hearing was already undertaken.  It is undisputed  that  in  the
year 2007 when the public hearing was given, the objections and  suggestions
were taken into consideration by the authority and  Environmental  Clearance
was accorded in the year 2008 but, thereafter, when the  second  application
was preferred dated 8th June 2009 for enhancing the production  capacity  by
more than double, people were not made aware of this proposal of  respondent
No.3 and the authority proceeded to accord Environmental  Clearance  waiving
public hearing.”

The High Court also placed reliance on the pronouncement of  this  Court  in
the     case     of     Lafarge     Umiam     Mining     Private     Limited
         - T.N.   Godavarman Thirumulpad  Vs. Union of India and  Others[1].
 The High Court thus set aside Environmental Clearance dated 27.01.2010  and
directed the appellant to stop operations of the entire  plant  and  further
directed  that  the  operations  could  be  restarted   only   after   fresh
Environmental Clearance was accorded  in  its  favour  by  the  Ministry  of
Environmental and Forests and Union of India.   The  decision  of  the  High
Court is presently under challenge.

11.   In  this  appeal  by  Special  Leave,  this  Court  issued  notice  on
15.05.2012 and by further order dated 18.05.2012  stayed  the  operation  of
the judgment and order of the High  Court.  It  also  directed  the  Central
Pollution Control Board to file  status  report  in  respect  of  plant  and
compliance of statutory requirements  by  the  appellant.  On  18.7.2012  an
affidavit was filed on behalf of CPCB stating that during its visit half  of
the plant was not  in  operation  and  as  such  actual  compliance  of  the
statutory requirements could not be ascertained.   It  further  stated  that
the industry of the Appellant was non-compliant with pollution standards  in
one or the other area made certain recommendations.

12.   The matter was thereafter taken up on  22.4.2014  when  the  following
order was passed by this Court:-

 “The matter has been almost fully heard.  Having regard to the  submissions
of the learned senior counsel and the Notifications of  1994  and  2006,  it
has become necessary to get the joint inspection done  of  the  petitioner’s
project from the Gujarat  Pollution  Control  Board  and  Central  Pollution
Control Board  (CPCB)  and  report  submitted  to  this  Court  whether  the
petitioners has complied with the recommendations of the  Central  Pollution
Control Board which are specified in para 7 of the  affidavit  of  Mr.  R.K.
Purohit, Senior Executive Director of the  petitioner  in  response  to  the
affidavit of Central Pollution Control Board dated 18.7.2012.

We, accordingly, direct the Central  Pollution  Control  Board  and  Gujarat
Pollution Control Board to make  a  joint  inspection  of  the  petitioner’s
project in the 3rd week of June, 2014 and report  about  the  compliance  of
the recommendations as set-out in the above affidavit.  The report shall  be
submitted on or before 5.7.2014.  We make it clear that if from  the  report
it transpires that the petitioner  has  not  yet  complied  fully  with  the
recommendations specified in the affidavit noted above,  the  special  leave
petition shall have to be  dismissed.   On  the  other  hand,  if  the  full
compliance of the above recommendations is found  to  have  been  made,  the
impugned order of the High Court will be set-aside…………………………”


13.     In the affidavit filed on  07.07.2014  on  behalf  of  CPCB  it  was
stated inter alia that pursuant to the  order  dated  22.04.2014  passed  by
this Court, a joint inspection was carried out  as  directed  and  that  the
industry of the Appellant had complied with  most  of  the  recommendations,
though there were still certain shortcomings.

14.   The matter was thereafter taken up for hearing.  Appearing in  support
of the appeal Dr. A.M. Singhvi, learned Senior Advocate submitted that  most
of the recommendations made in the affidavit dated  18.07.2012  having  been
complied with, the matter  now  stood  in  a  narrow  compass.   Mr.  Huzefa
Ahmadi, learned  Senior  Advocate  appearing  for  Respondent  No.1  however
submitted that the infirmity on account of absence of public  hearing/public
consultation which is a mandatory requirement under the EIA Notification  of
2006, rendered the Environmental  Clearance  dated  27.01.2010  invalid  and
illegal.

15.   The facts on  record  are  clear  that  while  granting  Environmental
Clearance on 20.02.2008, public consultation/public hearing  was  undertaken
on 12.06.2007.  As on that date the status  of  the  project  was  that  the
capacity of Pig Iron Plant was to be 350 TPD, Power Plant to be 24  MW,  the
total cost of the project was 90.00 crores and the total  Water  requirement
was 650 M?/Day.   The High Court was absolutely right that  after  expansion
the capacity of the plant was to increase  three-fold.   The  tabular  chart
given  in  Environmental  Clearance  dated  27.01.2010  itself   shows   the
tremendous increase in  the  capacity.   Consequently,  the  pollution  load
would naturally be of greater order than  the  one  which  was  contemplated
when the  earlier  public  consultation/public  hearing  was  undertaken  on
12.08.2007.  Further, the water requirement had also risen from  650  M?/Day
to 2165 M?/Day.  The increase in pollution load and water  requirement  were
certainly matters where public in general and those living in  the  vicinity
in particular had and continue to have a stake.

16.   Public consultation/public hearing is  one  of  the  important  stages
while considering the matter for  grant  of  Environmental  Clearance.   The
minutes of the meetings held on 9-11 February, 2009 show  that  the  request
of the Appellant for exemption from the requirement of  public  hearing  was
accepted by the Committee.  The observations of the Committee  suggest  that
there would be no  additional  land  requirement,  ground  water  drawl  and
certain  other  features.   However  the  water  requirement,  which  is   a
community resource, was definitely going to be of greater order in  addition
to  the  fact  that  the  expansion  of  the  project  would  have  entailed
additional pollution load.

17.   It must be stated here that after EIA Notification  of  2006  a  draft
Notification was issued on 09.01.2009 wherein an amendment was suggested  in
paragraph 7(ii) of EIA Notification dated 14.09.2006 to the effect  that  in
cases of expansion      of projects involving enhancement by more  than  50%
holding of public  consultation/public  hearing  was  essential;    implying
thereby  that  in  cases  where  expansion  was   less   than   50%   public
consultation/public hearing could  be  exempted.   Without  going  into  the
question whether public consultation/public hearing could  be  so  exempted,
it is relevant to note that this idea in  the  draft  Notification  was  not
accepted, after a Committee constituted to advise in the  matter  had  given
its  report  on  30.10.2009  to  the  contrary.   As  a  result,  the  final
Notification dated 01.12.2009 did not carry or contain  the  amendment  that
was suggested by way of draft Notification.  Consequently, no  exemption  on
that count could be given  when  the  Environmental  Clearance  came  to  be
issued on 27.01.2010.

18.   In the case of Lafarge (supra) public consultation/public hearing  was
considered and found  to  be  mandatory  requirement  of  the  Environmental
Clearance  process  by  this  Court.   In  its  conclusions  culled  out  in
paragraph 122 (xiv) as regards public consultation/public  hearing,  it  was
observed by this Court:-

“(xiv)  The public consultation or public hearing as it is  commonly  known,
is  a  mandatory  requirement  of  the  Environment  Clearance  process  and
provides an effective forum for any person aggrieved by any  aspect  of  any
project to register and seek redressal of his/her grievances.


19.   At the same time the observations by this Court while summing  up  the
discussion in paragraph 119 are quite eloquent:-
“……It cannot be  gainsaid  that  utilization  of  the  environment  and  its
natural resources has to be in a way that is consistent with  principles  of
sustainable development  and  intergenerational  equity,  but  balancing  of
these equities may entail policy choices.   In  the  circumstances,  barring
exceptions, decisions relating to utilization of natural resources  have  to
be tested on  the  anvil  of  the  well-recognised  principles  of  judicial
review.  Have all the relevant factors been taken  into  account?  Have  any
extraneous factors influenced the decision?  Is  the  decision  strictly  in
accordance with the legislative policy underlying  the  law  (if  any)  that
governs the field?  Is  the  decision  consistent  with  the  principles  of
sustainable development in the sense that has the decision-maker taken  into
account the said principle and, on the  basis  of  relevant  considerations,
arrived at a balanced decision?  Thus, the Court should review the decision-
making process to ensure that  the  decision  of  MoEF  is  fair  and  fully
informed, based on the  correct  principles,  and  free  from  any  bias  or
restraint.”


      In terms of the principles as laid down by this Court in the  case  of
Lafarge (supra), we find that the decision  making  process  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.

20.   At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that  in  pursuance
of Environmental Clearance dated 27.01.2010, the expansion  of  the  project
has been undertaken and as reported  by  CPCB  in  its  affidavit  filed  on
07.07.2014, most of the recommendations made by CPCB are complied with.   In
our considered view, the interest of justice would  be  sub-served  if  that
part of the decision exempting public  consultation/public  hearing  is  set
aside and the matter is relegated  back  to  the  concerned  Authorities  to
effectuate  public  consultation/public   hearing.    However,   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.  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.

21.    This  appeal  therefore  stands  disposed  of  with   the   aforesaid
modifications.  No order as to costs.

          …..…………………CJI.
 (T. S. Thakur)


                                                                ….……………………J.
 (R. Banumathi)



…...……………………J                 (Uday Umesh Lalit)
New Delhi,
August 02, 2016



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[1]    2011 (7) SCC 338

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