Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Athirappilly project: KSEB plea hearing on March 30

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday posted for March 30 the hearing on a writ petition filed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) challenging the order of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests revoking the environment clearance given for the proposed Athirappilly hydroelectric project.

Justice T.R. Ramachandran Nair adjourned the writ petition to enable Assistant Solicitor-General T.P.M. Ibrahim Khan to get instructions from the Central government .

In its petition, the KSEB said the decision of the Union Ministry was arbitrary. The environmental clearance for the project was granted by the MoEF on July 18, 2007, after considering several studies done by various expert bodies, including the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley and Hydro Electric projects under the MoEF.

The KSEB pointed out that the High Court was yet to dispose of a writ petition challenging the environment clearance granted earlier. In fact, the MoEF had never raised any objection to the proposed project at any point of time. The clearance was revoked when the matter was under the active consideration of the High Court. The decision to revoke the clearance was taken without any basis or material. Now a show cause notice was issued to the KSEB to make it appear that the principles of natural justice was complied with.

It was understood that the MoEF had ordered revocation of the clearance on the basis of a letter received from an individual. The clearance was given after following the statutory procedures.

The Ministry had taken the decision in a hasty manner. In fact, the Union Minister could not interfere with the decision of a statutory authority. The attempts of the Ministry were to interfere with the administration of law, the petitioner alleged.

The Ministry had no power to review its own order. Even if it was assumed that it had the power, such a review could be undertaken only after reporting the matter to the High Court.

The letter by the Union Ministry to the State government did not mention who made the complaint against the project or what were the allegations against the proposed project.

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