Madras High Court quashes Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s notice for prosecuting Isha Foundation

Latest News

The Madras High Court on Wednesday quashed a show cause notice issued by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to Isha Foundation on November 19, 2021, with respect to launching prosecution for having constructed several buildings at Velliangiri hills between 2006 and 2014 without obtaining prior environmental clearance.

First Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and Justice D. Krishnakumar held that the yoga centre would squarely fall under the definition of ‘educational institution,’ in view of the stand taken by the Centre, and therefore the constructions would be entitled to exemption from the requirement of obtaining environmental clearance.

Isha Foundation had approached the High Court in January this year challenging the steps taken by the TNPCB for prosecution. It had also challenged a 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on the apprehension that the notification does not grant exemption to it.

When the writ petition was taken up for admission on January 11, the then Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari (since retired) and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu passed an interim order restraining the Coimbatore District Environmental Engineer from proceeding further with the prosecution and ordered notice to the MoEF.

Pending adjudication of the writ petition, the Centre issued an office memorandum on May 19 this year defining ‘educational institution’ to mean even institutes that impart training on things essential for mental, moral and physical development. Since such a definition was in its favour, the foundation amended its prayer and challenged TNPCB’s action alone.

The petitioner institution told the court that it was a volunteer-run registered public charitable trust founded in 1992. The foundation had set up Isha Yoga Centre in 1994 to run a group of educational institutions. A variety of courses on yoga, classical arts and Sanskrit were taught through a gurukul format.

The foundation also began imparting English medium education affiliated with the ICSE Board. The buildings used for the educational purposes were spread over 1,25,849 square metres on 48.3 hectares in the Velliangiri hills. The foundation stated that 28,279 square metres were constructed before the 2006 EIA notification came into force and the remaining 91,519 square metres were constructed thereafter.

It had approached the court claiming that the 2014 EIA notification was an extension of the 2006 notification and therefore the exemption provided for educational institutions under the 2014 notification must apply from 2006 onwards.

Source Link

Leave a Reply