State PCB gets Telangana HC rap over public hearings

The bench was hearing a writ petition filed by A Venkateswarlu and four others of Suryapet district, questioning the air and water pollution caused by My Home Industries Pvt Ltd. 
Telangana High Court. (Photo | Wikimedia Commons)
Telangana High Court. (Photo | Wikimedia Commons)

HYDERABAD:  A bench of the Telangana High Court, comprising Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice T Vinod Kumar, on Wednesday, expressed its dissatisfaction over the conduct of the Telangana State Pollution Control Board (TSPCB). 

In its oral observations, the bench reminded the TSPCB that it exists to serve the public. “When grievances are brought forward through representations, they ought to be addressed within a month. Failure to do so would render the individuals concerned ineligible for their wages,” the court said, directing the TSPCB to record the proceedings of public hearings on video and present them, along with an affidavit detailing the hearing’s specifics. 

The bench was hearing a writ petition filed by A Venkateswarlu and four others of the Suryapet district, questioning the air and water pollution caused by My Home Industries Pvt Ltd. 

Counsel for the petitioners told the court that My Home Industries Pvt Ltd, a cement industry, had applied for environmental clearance to expand its operations and the TSPCB had issued three notices, scheduling public hearings according to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification dated September 14, 2006. 

These hearings were set to take place in Choutapally village on August 31, 2023, at 10.30 AM, 12.30 PM, and 3 PM.

It was brought to the notice of the bench that the TSPCB was conducting three separate public hearings in the same village at different times, presumably to discourage public participation. The respondent company sought environmental clearances for various aspects related to cement production expansion and mining lease amalgamation. The petitioner argued that these aspects should not be treated as distinct projects.

Responding to this, counsel for the TSPCB said that the public hearing would be conducted in accordance with the court’s directions. The board confirmed its intention to videograph the proceedings and present the recording before the court.

Following the arguments from both sides, the court instructed the TSPCB to initiate the public hearing on August 31, 2023, at 10:30 AM. Subsequently, the second and third public hearings, as specified in the notices, should be conducted once the first hearing concludes. As the hearings were to be conducted at the same location, the court emphasised the importance of concluding all three hearings consecutively, keeping in mind the convenience of the attending public. 

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