BENGALURU: While upholding the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) heavy environmental compensation imposed on two firms and the minimum buffer zone to be maintained by them, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the tribunal’s May 4, 2016 order that the city authorities should demolish all building raised/built before that date in the buffer zone. The court felt it will result in demolition of 95% of buildings in Bengaluru.
The ruling has come as a huge relief for lakhs of property owners whose constructions were retrospective to the NGT order date. However, it comes as a setback for Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd — which had violated the NGT directives by taking up construction after the order was passed.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices A K Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah said the two firms have to pay Rs 117.35 crore and Rs 13.5 crore, respectively, for breaching laws laid down to protect the environment and ecology between Bellandur and Agara lakes, and Rajakaluves as well. The amount should be paid to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) which has been asked to use it for environmental and ecological restoration.
While confirming the NGT judgments of May 7, 2015 and May 4, 2016, as far as Mantri Techzone and Core Mind Software and Services were concerned, the Supreme Court dismissed their civil appeals against the NGT’s order. However, the court allowed the civil appeals filed by the state government and others, questioning the validity of NGT order. Therefore, as per NGT order, all the offending constructions raised by Mantri and Core Mind of any kind, including boundary walls that fall in such areas, shall be demolished.
Wherever necessary dredging operations are required, it should be carried out to restore original capacity of the water spread area and/or wetlands. Not only the existing constructions will be removed but also none of these firms’ project proponents will be permitted to raise any construction in this zone. All authorities, particularly Lake development Authority, should carry out this operation in respect of all the water bodies/lakes of Bengaluru, the court said.
In 2015, NGT formed a panel
On May 7, 2015, the NGT had constituted a committee to inspect the projects of the two firms, and other areas of Bengaluru to examine inter-connectivity of lakes and impact of such construction activities upon the water bodies with particular reference to lakes, and submit a report. The firms were also restrained from creating any third-party interests or part with the possession of the property in question or in favour of any person.
On May 4, 2016, the NGT issued general condition and directive that Mantri Techzone and Core Mind Software and Services that should maintain 75 metre distance from the periphery of the water body as green belt and buffer zone for all the existing water bodies, both lakes and wetlands, and 50, 35 and 25 metres respectively from primary, secondary and tertiary drains, respectively.“The buffer/green zone would be treated as no-construction zone for all intent and purposes,” the NGT order said. “This is absolutely essential for the purposes of sustainable development, particularly keeping in mind the ecology and environment of the areas in question.
Relief for residents
Advocate General Uday Holla, appearing for Karnataka, contended that the state was aggrieved by the NGT order which directed authorities to demolish all the offending constructions raised/built in the buffer zone, which would have resulted in the demolition of 95% of the buildings in Bengaluru. The Revised Master Plan was statutory in nature and the NGT had no power, competence or jurisdiction to consider the validity of any statutory provision/regulation, he argued.