SC stays penalty of Rs 139.85 cr on two Bengaluru-based firms

SC stays penalty of Rs 139.85 cr on two Bengaluru-based firms

In a relief to two Bengaluru-based firms, the Supreme Court today stayed a penalty of Rs 139.85 crore imposed on them by National Green Tribunal for "illegal and unauthorised" construction in the vicinity of the Agara lake in the city.

A vacation bench of justices A K Sikri and U U Lalit, besides staying the levy of fines, asked the tribunal to decide the pleas of the firms on merits.

Senior advocates Gopal Subramanium and Kapil Sibal, who appeared on behalf of the companies, said that the tribunal did not hear and considered the arguments on merits.

"It has been submitted that the tribunal has allowed construction only on payment of aforesaid penalty. We leave it open to the tribunal to decide it," the bench said while disposing of pleas of Mantri Tech Zone Pvt Ltd and Coremind Software and Services Pvt Ltd.

Earlier, cracking the whip on two commercial projects, the tribunal had imposed Rs 117.35 crore and Rs 22.5 crore as damages on Mantri Tech Zone Pvt Ltd and Coremind Software and Services Pvt Ltd respectively for degrading the environment.

The tribunal had also directed the Centre to stop sanctioning any venture on wetlands and catchment areas of water bodies in the city.

A bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, had termed the project proponents as "intentional defaulters" and constituted a committee to make a survey of the the ecologically sensitive area on the land between Bellandur and Agara lakes, in Bengaluru.

It had also constituted a committee comprising advisor in MoEF dealing with the subject of wetlands, CEO of Karnataka Lake Development Authority, Chief Town Planner of BBMP, Chairman of SEAC which recommended EC to the projects, scientist (Ecology) from Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, Siddharth Kaul (former advisor to MoEF) and a senior officer from National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee.

The four-judge bench had said the compensation amount would be paid to Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, which shall maintain a separate account and would spend the money for environmental and ecological restoration and restitution.

The judgement came on a petition filed by The Forward Foundation, Bangalore, Praja RAAG, Bangalore and Bangalore Environment Trust.

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