Would Adversely Affect Power Sector: SC Allows Continuation Of Coal Based Power Plants In Tamil Nadu
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and permitted the appellant- M/s IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Limited to continue with the power plants and said that the question of law “whether for the project like this, a cumulative impact assessment study was required or not”, was kept open and would be decided in an appropriate case.
The Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar observed that, "if the two power plants/ units of 660MW were closed, it would adversely affect power sector of the State and which would not be in the larger public interest, more particularly the power deficient State of Tamil Nadu."
The Court also held, "an aggrieved person may always challenge the corrigendum to the EC, however, the appeal will be restricted to the corrigendum to the EC on additional conditions only, if the original EC is not under challenge and/or the original EC has been confirmed by the NGT earlier on certain conditions which have not been challenged."
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the appellant and Advocate Shiv Mangal Sharma appeared for the MoEF and Advocate Srishti Agnihotri appeared for the original petitioners
In this case, the appellant had commenced two imported coal based thermal power plants in Phase-I which were in operation since September, 2015 and now was under control of the Government of India. The appellant was granted the Environment Clearance (EC). This EC was challenged by the original petitioners, who claimed to be fishermen and persons acting for welfare of fishermen before the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The NGT upheld the validity of the EC but directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) to review the EC based on the cumulative impact assessment study and stipulate any additional conditions, if required and directed that till then the EC shall remain suspended. Rapid Cumulative Impact Assessment (RCIA) study was completed by the appellant and a report was submitted to the MoEF. Thereafter, Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) recommended certain additional conditions to be added to the EC including the requirement of installing a Flue Gas De-sulfurization (FGD) system as part of the power plant.
MoEF further, based on the recommendations of the EAC, issued a corrigendum to the EC imposing additional conditions to the EC. Appeal was filed against the corrigendum which was quashed by the NGT. Aggrieved of the said order of the NGT, appeal was preferred before the Apex Court.
The counsel for the appellant submitted that the closing of the thermal power plants would not be in public interest as it supplied power to approximately 40 lakhs households and being situated in a energy deficient State of Tamil Nadu, it would adversely affect the power sector of the State.
The Apex Court noted that by and large there was substantial compliance of the conditions imposed and therefore, allowed the appellant/project proponent to continue with the power plants which were in operation since September.
“There do not appear to be any fundamental breaches or non-compliance of the conditions imposed while issuing EC....we dispose of the present appeals by permitting/allowing the appellant/project proponent to continue with the power plants which are in operation since September, 2015 and April, 2016 on the conditions as above, i.e., subject to compliance of all the conditions mentioned in the EC as well as additional conditions imposed vide corrigendum to the EC dated 14.08.2012 and to fully comply with the conditions which are 14 partly complied with within the stipulated time as suggested and prayed by the appellant company.” said the Apex Court.
With regard to the maintainability of appeal against the corrigendum to the EC filed before the NGT, the Apex Court observed that an aggrieved person could always challenge the corrigendum to the EC based on additional condition.
Accordingly, the appeal was disposed of.
Cause Title- M/s IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Limited v. T. Muruganandam & Others