The Supreme Court has stayed an order of the National Green Tribunal imposing a penalty of Rs 100 crore on Andhra Pradesh for obtaining environmental clearance for the Avulapalli reservoir project in violation of environmental norms.

A bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice M M Sundresh said this would be subject to a deposit of Rs 25 crore by the state government with the authorities within a period of eight weeks.

"Issue notice, returnable in the month of October 2023. In the meanwhile, there will be stay of the direction given in the impugned judgment with regard to penalty/compensation, subject to the appellants depositing an amount of Rs.25 crore with the authorities within a period of eight weeks," the bench said.

The deposit will be subject to the outcome of the present appeal, the apex court said.

The apex court was hearing a plea filed by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging an order of the NGT which set aside environmental clearance granted to the Avulapalli reservoir in the state.

The NGT had on May 11 set aside the EC given by the state-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for the construction of the Avulapalli balancing reservoir.

The green panel had passed the order on a plea filed by farmers challenging the environmental clearance granted by SEIAA.

The NGT had also imposed a penalty of Rs 100 crore on Andhra Pradesh payable to the Krishna River Management Board within three months.

"It is extremely disturbing to note that a Government Department, in gross violation of environmental laws, can go to this extent to implement an Irrigation Project by resorting to falsehood, misrepresentation and cheating the SEIAA," the NGT had said in its order.

"If a Government Department can stoop to the levels they have as in the instant case, nothing can prevent an agency with commercial gains to split the project into different phases to avoid EC or change the category," the NGT had said.

With PTI Inputs