The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Friday filed a criminal complaint against promoters and officials of controversial hill city project, Lavasa under the Environment Protection Act (EPA) for violation of the environment law.
A complaint was filed before Chief Judicial Magistrate NT Ghatge in Pune against 15 people including industrialist and Lavasa chief promoter Ajit Gulabchand, directors Anuradha Desai, Guatam Thapar and Aniruddha Deshpande and power of attorney holder Vithal Maniyar. Among those named in the complaint nine are directors of Lavasa and six are officials. The action is being taken under sections 15 and 16 of EPA.
As the application was moved by the MPCB before the court, Chief Judicial Magistrate Ghatge said the application will be scrutinised and then further process will take place.
The state government had on Thursday directed the MPCB, its nodal agency, to implement environment related laws and rules, to take action against Lavasa. The state directive comes following the Bombay high court order asking it to take 'credible action' against the company for alleged environmental violation. The decision was cleared by the state environment minister Sanjay Deotale and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was appraised of the action to be taken, a day before.
Under sections 15 and 16 of the EPA, those deemed guilty can be punished by a penalty of Rs 1 lakh or imprisonment of up to five years or both. The law also states that if the offence is committed by a company then any person ``directly in charge of ..responsible for the conduct of business’’ in the company is liable to be prosecuted.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) had asked the state through a letter on June 10 to take action against Lavasa for environmental violations – of carrying out work in 681 hectares of its total 2,000 hectare project in Pune district without the mandatory clearance.
The state action is one of the five preconditions laid down before the project can be regularized. In its order in October last year, MOEF had said that it was willing to regularize the project but the developers would have to meet certain riders. This includes action by the state government besides setting up of environment restoration fund, commitment to not to further violate green norms, revised development plan etc. The court has asked Union environment ministry to give final order in the case by November 10.