The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the National Green Tribunal's order of May 4, 2016, which enlarged the buffer zone limits around lakes and water bodies in Bengaluru.
The top court's judgement comes as a relief for not only the real estate developers but also for those whose constructions fell under the revised buffer zone as the tribunal had directed for removal of the existing structures.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah allowed the appeals filed by the Karnataka government and others direction for maintaining a buffer zone and green belt of 75-metre in case of lakes, 50-metre for primary, 35-metre for secondary and 25-metre for tertiary 'Rajkulewas'.
The state government was aggrieved with the directions, saying those were against the revised master plan of Bengaluru 2015, which had got a statutory character. It further contended the directions were against the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Act, Planning Act, Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976. It said the buffer zone was already fixed as 30-metre.
The court disagreed to this contention by the state.
But it noted senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, appearing for NGO 'Forward Foundation' had no objection if those general directions were set aside. It was on the NGO's plea that the NGT passed its orders.
Citing Section 33 of the NGT Act, the top court held, “A central legislation enacted under Entry 13 of List I Schedule VII of the Constitution will have the overriding effect over state legislation. The corollary is that the tribunal while providing for restoration of the environment in an area, can specify buffer zones around specific lakes and water bodies in contradiction with zoning regulations under these statutes or the RMP (revised master plan).”
The judgement was authored by Justice Nazeer on behalf of the bench.
The top court, however, dismissed the appeals filed by Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd against the findings of the encroachment of water bodies in Bengaluru.
“It is also clear from the materials on record that there is a definite possibility of environment, ecology, lakes, and wetland being adversely affected by these projects,” the bench said in its 56-page judgement.
The court agreed with the NGT's findings that the projects for – setting up of Software Technology park, commercial and residential complex, hotel and multi-level car parks in the protected zone in between the Bellandur Lake and the Agara lake -- would cause serious damage to the environment.
With the court's judgement, a penalty of Rs 117 crore penalty imposed on Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Rs 13.5 crore on Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd for encroachment of water bodies in Bengaluru would have to be paid.