February 11, 2021 2:46:12 am
The National Highways Authority of India will donate Rs 2.5 lakh each to two Environment Ministry entities as compensation for claiming in the Karnataka High Court that the Environment Protection Act, 1986 was enacted by Parliament at the instance of foreign powers.
The entities identified by NHAI are the Wildlife Institute of India and the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education in Dehradun. A division bench of the High Court has now issued directions for payment to the government agency.
Last month, the court had pulled up NHAI for suggesting that the Environment Protection Act had “been passed by Parliament not only for protection of environment but also at the instance of foreign powers”, and that NGOs working for the environment, conservation and human rights were all foreign agents.
After being reprimanded and ordered to investigate how the “shocking” objections were filed in court—in response to a petition filed by NGO United Conservation Movement—NHAI moved the court to withdraw them. The request for permission to withdraw the objections would be subject “to payment of appropriate costs”, the High Court observed in a February 2 interim order.
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“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.
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 the court in a January 11 order.
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