NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has suspended an order passed by the National Green Tribunal on May 11 order, imposing Rs 100 Cr penalty on Andhra Pradesh in connection with the environmental clearance for the Avulapalli reservoir project allegedly in violation of norms.
A bench Justices Sanjiv Khanna and M M Sundresh, however, said, the order would be stayed, subject to deposit of Rs 25 Cr.
Acting on a petition by the Andhra Pradesh government, the court issued notice to the applicants farmers, who filed the plea in the NGT, and put the matter for consideration in October, 2023.
“In the meanwhile, there will be stay of the direction given in the impugned judgment with regard to penalty/compensation, subject to the appellants depositing an amount of Rs 25,00,00,000/- (Rupees twenty five crore only) with the authorities within a period of eight weeks from today. The deposit will be subject to the outcome of the present appeal,” the bench said in its order.
The green tribunal (South zone) has set aside the environmental clearance granted to the Avulapalli reservoir. It has also reprimanded the government for the alleged misrepresentations in its application for and obtaining the EC for the Avulappali Balancing Reservoir (ABR) in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh.
The NGT found that the while the eventual/proposed final water storage capacity of the project was 3.5 TMC, Andhra Pradesh deliberately applied for and obtained an EC authorising a water storage capacity of 2.5 TMC with a culturable command area of 9700 Ha, only for the purpose of misleading the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SEIAA).
In its plea, filed through advocate Mahfooz Nazki, the state government said, “the finding is completely misconceived. It was nobody’s case that any storage capacity in excess of 2.5 TMC is being utilized for the ABR Project, or any constructions in excess of the culturable command area more than 9700 Ha is being undertaken”.
The NGT's order came on a plea filed by farmers challenging the environmental clearance.
"The NGT has grossly erred in warrantlessly presuming that the project proponents actively and malafidely intend to violate the EC conditions and carry on with construction beyond 9700 Ha and capacity of 2.5 TMC. As and when the stage is reached that Phase II of the ABR Project will be implemented, the Project Proponent will of course obviously apply for an EC for the same. To pre-emptively assume otherwise and stall the ABR Project and impose a heavy penalty of INR 100 Crores is completely unsustainable," it said.
The state government also said the ABR Project aimed to supply drinking water to a population of about 2.76 lakhs people in severely drought-prone areas of the State of Andhra Pradesh, particularly Chittoor and Rayalaseema.
"Stopping the ABR Project at this stage would put the lives of such citizens at risk and would put them at an extremely disadvantageous position," it said.