An environment ministry committee has confirmed that the Forest Rights Act was violated during acquisition of land for South Korean steelmaker Posco's project in Orissa.
The Forest Advisory Committee, which in December 2009 had given approval for the $12 billion project, did not recommend scrapping the approval given.
In August 2010, the ministry had stopped the acquisition work on the basis of a report submitted by the NC Saxena Committee, constituted to examine the implementation of the Forest Rights Act.
In its recommendations submitted to the environment ministry on Tuesday, the committee found that the Orissa government had violated the Forest Rights Act while acquiring land for the project.
"The ball in now in the ministry's court," a panel member who was not willing to be quoted said.
According to the Forest Rights Act, consent of the gram sabha of the villages on the forest land is mandatory to initiate acquisition. In the case of the Posco project, the fragmented Meena Gupta committee found that no consent had been taken.
While three members of the committee had recommended scrapping of all clearances, Gupta wanted only suspension for the time being.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh is, however, expected to decide the fate of the project after receiving reports from two other ministerial wings — one on environment clearance and the other on coastal regulation zone.
Ministry officials said the recommendation of the Forest Advisory Committee was only advisory in nature and not mandatory for the government to follow.
"The minister can take a contrary view as taken in case of the Renuka dam, whose construction was approved by FAC," said a senior ministry official.