The Delhi high court on Monday reserved its ruling on Haryana’s plea challenging its order restraining the state from prosecuting car maker Maruti for not having prior environment clearance (EC) for its unit in Rohtak.
A bench, headed by chief justice G Rohini, said it will pass orders on the issues raised by the Haryana State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) in its appeal as well as whether the petition is barred by time as there was a delay of 55 days in filing it.
During the proceedings, the court questioned how the state can challenge an order, which was passed after both sides agreed to an amicable settlement of the issue.
“An amicable settlement has been done. How can you go back on that? The single judge had passed the order on the basis of the submissions made by you,” the court said.
The high court had on May 26 restrained Haryana from initiating proceedings against Maruti saying the company had not obtained prior EC as it believed the EIA notification did not apply to it, adding Maruti “could not be said to have acted with malafide intent”.
The order was passed after the additional advocate general for the state had submitted before a single-judge bench of the high court that it supports an amicable resolution of the disputes.
It had also said if the legality and validity of the 2006 notification is upheld and Maruti as well as its directors undertake to obtain ex-post facto EC and comply with its terms and conditions for project in Rohtak and all future projects in Haryana, the state would consider not initiating any criminal action against the company for not procuring prior EC with regard to the present project.
SEIAA in its plea, challenging the order, has contended that such an amicable settlement was not provided for under the statute in environment matters. “Amicable settlement can’t be done on such issues involving environment laws,” the state told the bench.
The authority also contended that the high court did not have the territorial jurisdiction to deal with the matter.
It also argued that the high court did not have jurisdiction to deal with the subject matter of environment as the same falls in the domain of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
On the other hand, senior advocate Arvind Nigam, appearing for Maruti, opposed the plea saying, “There still remains ambiguity on whether the 2006 notification applies to us.”
He also informed the court that “parties were working to resolve it when they (Haryana) jump the gun and wish to prosecute us”.
Nigam also said Maruti does not agree with the high court’s view that the company will have to get environment clearance prior to constructing any unit measuring over 20,000 square metres as per central government’s environment impact assessment (EIA) notification of September 14, 2006.
The court had also said the 2006 EIA notification is applicable to Maruti.
As per the 2006 notification, constructions and buildings on areas of over 20,000 square metres require prior environment clearance and this has been made applicable to Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
The state government was of the view that the Maruti facility is similar to an SEZ and since it had constructed research and development facility, testing track, etc., without prior EC, it had violated the environment norms.