Cannot put clock back: SC refuses to stop operations of Noida metro

The court was hearing an appeal filed against a May 31, 2016 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), directing that all metro rail projects need an environmental clearance after conducting a proper environment impact assessment
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India Reuters

NEW DELHI: Noting that the entire metro rail project is complete and running, the Supreme Court has refused to stop the Noida metro's operations for the want of an environmental clearance.

The court was hearing an appeal filed against a May 31, 2016 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), directing that all metro rail projects need an environmental clearance after conducting a proper environment impact assessment.

Keeping the question of law open, a bench of justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar said the metro services in Delhi and Noida are being used by the public at large.

''In that view of the matter, when the entire metro rail project is complete and the metro rail is running, the clock cannot be put back and the same shall not be even in the larger public interest. Under the circumstances, we propose to dispose of the present appeals, keeping the questions of law open,'' it said.

The apex court said the NGT order cannot be acted upon in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case.

''However, the questions of law, if any, more particularly, whether with respect to the rail project or metro rail project, the environmental clearance is required or not and other questions of law, if any, are kept open to be considered in appropriate proceedings and the present order shall not be cited as a precedent in any other matters or cases,'' the bench said.

The NGT had held that all metro rail projects need an environmental clearance after conducting a proper environment impact assessment.

It had said the Noida metro, the construction of which was challenged before it, fell under Schedule 8(b) of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, relating to buildings, construction and development projects that are mandated to get a prior environmental clearance.

The green panel had also directed the upcoming Noida-Greater Noida metro project to obtain an environmental clearance from the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).

The order was passed on a plea filed by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, seeking directions to the Noida Metro Rail Corporation (NMRC) to obtain an environmental clearance for its project from Noida to Greater Noida after conducting a proper environment impact assessment.

''From the detailed project report (DPR), it is clear that the total land requirement for the project of metro rail from Noida to Greater Noida is around 2,84,762.01 square metres. However, no Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report was prepared. This fact was verified by the applicant by inspecting the records of the project under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

''It is submitted that as per 8(b) of the schedule of the EIA Notification, 2006, a project having a covering area of more than 50 hectares or a built-up area of more than 1,50,000 square metres requires an environmental clearance and is to be appraised as a category B1 project,'' the plea, filed through advocate Rahul Choudhary, had said.

Tongad had stated that the metro from Noida to Greater Noida will pass through Hindon and piers would be constructed on a river bed, which can significantly harm the river's aquatic habitat.

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