The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed an interim fine of Rs 1 crore on Rustomjee Developers for causing “damage to the environment” through its residential project Rustomjee Oriana at Bandra East in Mumbai.
A bench of Justice Adarsh Goel, Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda on Monday observed that Mumbai is highly congested and any further constructions must be strictly legal. “Any illegal construction must be visited with permissible adverse legal action. Our experience shows that present is not the only case of illegal construction. Such activity is rampant posing serious challenge to environment (sic),” it added.
The bench further said, “We note the submission that area is already highly congested and with the expansion of the project, there is adverse impact on the environment, including the air quality, and the water quality because of added municipal waste, including sewage and because of further congestion including traffic (sic).”
Anil Tharthare, a resident of Bandra East, had filed an appeal through his lawyer Aditya Pratap, challenging a March 13, 2014, order passed by the state principal secretary and environment-cum-member secretary, granting “amendment” to the environment clearance (EC) for the proposed expansion of redevelopment of Oriana Residential Project (now called Rustomjee Oriana) at Bandra by M/s Resilience Realty Private Limited.
The state government, in its reply, told the NGT that the size of the project was less than 1.5 lakh sq m. It said that while the original EC was granted on May 2, 2013, an amendment was sought on September 24, 2013, which was granted on March 13, 2014 as it was case of only “amendment” and not “expansion”. It added that it was observed that the amendment was marginal and the impact on environment was minimal. Resilience Realty, now known as Keystone Realtors — a company of Rustomjee group — in its reply told the NGT that since it was a minor amendment, as per consistent practice, it was allowed. The expansion cannot be held to be a new project, it claimed.
The bench said, “No project can be set up or expanded without prior EC. Such requirement cannot be nullified by terming ‘expansion’ as ‘amendment’. Thus, the impugned order dated 13.03.2014 cannot be sustained and is liable to be quashed.”
A statement by Rustomjee Group said: “The company is always in compliance to applicable laws. Since the matter is subjudice before the court, we would not like to comment on the merits of the interim order. We are exercising our legal remedies available in accordance with law since the interim order was passed without granting us any opportunity of being heard.”