February 6, 2021 4:39:02 am
The Karnataka High Court has asked the National Highways Authority of India to consider making a donation to an environmental NGO of their choice as compensation for claiming during the course of a recent case that the central Environment Protection Act, 1986 was enacted by Parliament at the instance of foreign powers.
A division bench of the High Court had pulled up NHAI last month for suggesting that the Act was enacted at the behest of foreign countries and that NGOs working for the environment, conservation and human rights were all foreign agents.
After being reprimanded and ordered to carry out an investigation on how the “shocking” objections were filed in court—in response to a petition filed by an NGO United Conservation Movement— NHAI has now sought to withdraw the controversial objections. This request would be subject “to payment of appropriate costs”, the HC observed in an interim order on February 2.
“Before we pass any order regarding costs, we give an opportunity to the NHAI to donate a substantial amount to any organization which according to the NHAI is doing constructive work in the field of environment. While we say so, we make it clear that we are not compelling the NHAI to do so as the court always retains power to pass appropriate orders on cost,” the High Court stated.
In a submission to the high court against a writ petition filed by an NGO the NHAI stated that the Environment Protection Act, 1986 “has been passed by Parliament not only for protection of environment but also at the instance of foreign powers”.
United Conservation Movement filed the writ petition against an August 22, 2013 notification of the Environment Ministry doing away with Environment Impact Assessment reports for widening national highways that are more than 100 km in length.
A division bench headed by the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court took strong exception to the objections filed in the petition on behalf of the NHAI during a hearing on January 11. “We cannot casually allow withdrawal of such a statement of objections in which a bold stand has been taken by the said Authority on oath that the said Act of 1986 has been enacted not only for the protection of the environment, but also at the instance of the foreign powers,” said a bench comprising Justice Abhay Sreenivas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum in a January 11 order.
According to the objections filed by the NHAI, the Environment Protection Act, 1986, is an Act “to provide for the protection and improvement of environment and for matters connected therewith: whereas the decisions were taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June, 1972, in which India participated, to take appropriate steps for the protection and improvement of human environment.”