Himachal court cancels green nod for cement unit

Monday, December 13, 2010

SHIMLA - In a major setback to cement maker Harish Cement Limited, a subsidiary of Grasim Cements Limited, the Himachal Pradesh High Court Monday cancelled the environmental clearance granted to it by the central government.

The court also struck down a 2009 notification issued by the state government for acquiring land for the cement unit in Mandi district.

The division bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Rajeev Sharma said that the central government had committed illegality by waiving off a public hearing - ahead of the grant of environmental clearance in 2005 - at the request of the then chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

“A public hearing is a very important component of such project which affects the life of citizens of the state. The state should make endeavour to protect the environment and ecology of the area, more particularly where a cement plant is to be established,” the bench observed.

“The central ministry has acted only on the request of the chief minister and has not taken an independent decision based on facts. Such practice is forbidden and not authorised by law,” the judges noted.

The order came on a bunch of petitions alleging that Harish Cement Limited was permitted to establish a plant near Sundernagar in Mandi district in violation of the environmental laws.

The petitioners alleged that the cement plant was being set up within 500 metres of the Bandli Wildlife Sanctuary.

The environment clearance was given to the company by the union ministry of environment and forests in 2005. In 2009, the state government issued a land acquisition notification for the project.

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