Peeved at the construction of the new Vidhan Sabha and High Court buildings in Ranchi, without environmental clearance, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a penalty of more than Rs 125 crore on the Jharkhand government. Construction for both the buildings was initiated by the previous Raghubar Das regime. Now, the Hemant Soren government will have to pay a fine of Rs 49 crore for the state Assembly building and a fine of Rs 81 crore for the construction of the new High Court premises.
In the run-up to the last assembly elections, BJP’s erstwhile Chief Minister Raghubar Das, campaigned around the construction of these two buildings, referring to the proposed Assembly structure as “the biggest panchayat”. Blueprints and photographs of both the structures were published as BJP’s achievements. However, the construction of the High Court building remains incomplete while its estimated budget has also gone up.
The petitioner in this case, an environment and wildlife expert, Dr R K Singh tells Outlook that the NGT had entrusted the investigation of the case to a panel of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). During its hearing on September 23 last year, the NGT had said that the CPCB would decide the penalty. On March 16 this year, the Jharkhand government was supposed to deposit the amount of the penalty against the damage to the environment, which was allegedly not submitted. Post which, the NGT held the final hearing on Wednesday and imposed the fine.
According to Singh, there are 55 other non-governmental projects being carried out by institutions like IIM, Ranchi Smart City and Jharkhand Urban Infrastructure Development Limited, which have violated environmental clearances. They have also been ordered to pay fines.
Singh says that he had moved the petition to the tribunal because it was a question of justice for him. “The foundation of the two pillars of democracy – the Legislative Assembly, where the laws are made and the High Court, the custodians of the law, were being constructed in an illegal manner which is why this petition was filed,” he said.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren has said that necessary action will be taken by his government only after thoroughly studying the NGT order.
Meanwhile, former BJP cabinet minister Saryu Rai, who had a recent falling out with Das, has pulled up the ex-CM. Rai has demanded that Das not just pay the penalty but has also urged for filling a criminal complaint against Das for violating environmental laws.
“Will those who got the half-constructed buildings inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi admit their mistake now?” he questioned. He also wondered as to who will ultimately pay the fine imposed on the Jharkhand government-- the contractors, the bureaucrats or the state exchequer, which fills its reserves through taxes collected from the common man.
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