The fast-track projects of UP Government for building memorials and installing statues of Dalit icons including Chief Minister Mayawati faced another roadblock with the Supreme Court on Friday restraining it from carrying out construction activities for its Rs 650 crore venture at a park in Noida adjacent to the capital.
The direction to stop the work for the construction of statues and memorials comprising Mayawati, her mentor Kanshi Ram and other dalit leaders in 35.5 hectare of park land by the apex court came after it last month ordered stoppage of such works in Lucknow and initiated contempt proceedings on October 6 against the Chief Secretary for flagrant violation of its directions.
The Court refused the plea of Mayawati Government that it should adjourn the matter and give time for responding to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) report which said the project was carried out without environmental clearance.
A Special Forest Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices S H Kapadia and Aftab Alam indicated its mind at the outset of the hearing that it would stay the building and construction activities and would only allow other aspects of the project.
"The authorities can continue with all other works of the project except with building and construction activities," the Bench said in its interim order and posted the matter for further hearing on October 26.
The Bench asked the Ministry of Forest and Environment to respond to the apex court-appointed CEC report.
The Bench said all the parties need to be heard as the issue involved interpretation of laws and the notification by the Centre relating to the use of forest land for construction activities.
It declined to entertain the repeated pleas of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi to be granted time to respond to the CEC report.
The Bench said it could grant adjournment on the condition that the advocates for UP government and Noida authorities give undertaking that the work for construction would be stopped for a week while other aspects of the project could continue.
The offer by the Bench was declined by Rohatgi and senior advocate Raju Ramachandran who was appearing for the Noida authority.
"I cannot give any statement in this aspect," Rohatgi said and hinted to the Bench about the undertaking given in Lucknow matter which ultimately resulted in initiation of contempt proceedings against the Chief Secretary.
At the outset, senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for U.P residents Kanan Bihari Jaiswal and Anand Arya, objected to state government's plea for adjournment without stopping the construction work.
"They cannot take the benefit of adjournment to continue with the work at the project sites," he said countering Rohatgi's submission that 75 per cent of the work was already completed.
The Bench was also not impressed with the submission of the UP government. "If we come to contra-conclusion what will happen. Can we bring the clock back," it said adding that "why should public money be allowed to be wasted".
Rohatgi said if the court comes to the conclusion that the project was carried out without approval of environment impact assessment, it could order for the demolition of the structures.
"Putting the clock back is difficult. Why can't you wait for a week," the Bench said and made it clear that it also wanted to know whether the building plans were approved by the authorities.
"How have you interpreted the notification and laws....and in the plan how the property has been described. For deciding this matter we require all these details and we need to hear all the parties including MOEF," the Bench said without considering Rohatgi's plea that only two percent of the area in the park was meant for construction activities.
The UP government's contention that the project involved the beautification of the park did not cut much ice with the Bench which drew its attention to the CEC report which said there were some violations on environmental aspects.
Rohatgi had submitted that one of the CEC member had dissented with the view of other members.
However, the dissent by the member came for criticism from Bhushan who said that the member had earlier agreed with fact that there was violation of environmental norms but later changed his mind, that too after his tenure was over.
The state government also accused the MOEF for the mess by contending that it has filed three affidavits on the issue with contradictory stands.
In the first affidavit there was no objection by the MOEF which took a diametrically opposite stand in the second and the in the third it felt that it was the matter requiring legal debate and should be left to the apex court, Rohatgi said. PTI