Authority Cannot Insist On Renewal Of Environmental Clearances Unless There Is Positive Statutory Requirement: Bombay HC
The Bombay High Court has observed that the Municipal Corporation cannot insist on revalidation or renewal of Environmental Clearances unless a positive statutory requirement is shown for the same.
The Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation [VVCMC] had made untenable demands from every developer in the area by insisting on a revalidation of an EC.
The Court noted that EC does not require any revalidation or renewal, unlike Consent to Operate (CTO) which may need to be renewed periodically. The Court observed that once acquired, no municipal corporation has the authority to demand the renewal of EC as it is granted at the initial stages of a project with no provisions for renewal cycles. The Division Bench of the High Court had adjudicated on the same issue in a previous case (WP No. 2825 of 2022) involving Velsons Developers and Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation, in orders dated, March 21st and March 24th, 2023.
The Bench comprising Justice G.S. Patel and Justice Kamal Khata observed, “We therefore return a specific finding that there is no requirement of revalidation or renewal of Environmental Clearances although a Consent To Operate requires or may require to be renewed periodically. Once that is done, the VVCMC, or for that matter any other Municipal Corporation, or the MPCB cannot insist on a ‘renewal’ of the ‘Environmental Clearance’... This is also logical, because an Environmental Clearance is granted on the project proposal at its inception or proposal stage, in cases where it is mandated. There is no concept of a constant cycle of Environmental Clearances”.
The Bench noted, “The Respondents are put to notice that we will dispose of the Petition in the terms indicated above unless it is shown that there is a positive statutory requirement for a renewal of an Environmental Clearance”.
Advocate Sneha Prabhu appeared on behalf of the Petitioner.
In order to apply for an occupancy certificate, developers in the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) were required to renew their EC. However, the High Court deemed this requirement unreasonable in two orders on March 21st and 24th, 2023 (supra). Despite having a valid EC, Velsons Developers faced the same issue and the Division Bench instructed VVCMC to reconsider their position. On March 24th, VVCMC made a statement that they would process occupancy certificate applications without being influenced by the earlier orders of the Division Bench.
Cosmos Prime Projects Ltd (Cosmos) also faced rejection for their occupancy certificate (OC) applications for Cosmos Solitaire, Cosmos Regency, and Cosmos Legend due to the lack of EC renewal, despite regularly renewing their CTO. Cosmos has filed a Writ Petition against the rejection of OC.
The Court asserted that compliance with stipulated norms is ensured through periodic renewals of the CTO. The Court observed that permission from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board is necessary for the operationalization of MSW/STP, among other things.
Accordingly, the Court listed the matter for September 4.
Cause Title: Cosmos Prime Projects Ltd v. Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation & Ors