Three days after the environment ministry threatened to declare Lake City project near Pune "illegal", Lavasa Corporation Limited on Monday accused environment minister Jairam Ramesh of acting "malafide" on the behest of political activists and said the notice was "without authority in law".
The ministry had on Friday slapped a notice terming the project over 2,000 hectares on a hilltop as illegal.
Ramesh said there were loopholes in Lavasa's reply. "The ministry is studying the reply and a response will be given within a stipulated timeframe," he said.
Ministry officials said the corporation was trying to project a "holier than thou" picture as the project was in danger of being scrapped.
Lavasa launched a personal attack on Ramesh, accusing him of leaking information on the notice to activists Medha Patkar, Prakash Ambedkar and Vishwambhar Chaudhary a day before it was issued.
The corporation wanted to know if it was regular practice for the ministry to inform activists about a notice before the corporation got it. The reply said the activists were making baseless allegations and had refused to meet them even after repeated requests.
"Violations are very clear and obvious," Patkar said, supporting the ministry's action. "In fact, it is Lavasa that has been putting pressure on the state government and surviving the violations all these years."
Lavasa questioned why the ministry remained silent for six years since the Mahrashtra government clarified there was no violation of law.
The timing of the notice was also allegedly aimed at hurting its IPO, expected in December.
"The speed and manner in which the show-cause notice has been issued shows that there is an ulterior motive behind this entire exercise only to frustrate our bona-fide efforts to bring the IPO in the market," the reply said.
It pointed out the ministry's approval of an electricity line and a tunnel in 2009, knowing that they were for the project. Objections were not raised then, indicating the malafide intention behind the notice.
Questioning the ministry's jurisdiction and its powers under the Environment Protection Act, the corporation said the power to monitor projects was delegated to State Environment Impact Assessment Authority and, thus, the ministry could not issue a stop work order under the EP Act.