Pune: The Supreme Court on Friday set the fine amount of Rs 105 crore on a city-based real estate company, Goel Ganga Developers, which has been asked to pay environmental compensation cost of Rs 100 crore by the Pune bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT). It was fined for flouting environment clearance conditions relating to an integrated housing project at Wadgaon Budruk off Sinhagad Road and Rs 5 crore fine was levied by the NGT. Earlier in January, NGT had raised the fine amount from Rs 105 crore to Rs 195 crore for neglecting the environment norms, following which Goel Ganga Developers had approached the SC.
Earlier, the petitioner in the case, Tanaji Gambhire had submitted to NGT to take scientific basis like carbon print for proper quantification of the environmental compensation. The bench of Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta passed the judgement which stated that courts cannot introduce a new concept of assessing and levying damages unless the expert evidence in this behalf is led or there are some well established principles. “We find that no such principles have been accepted or established in the present case. When there are no pleadings in this regard, we fail to understand how the concept of carbon footprint can be introduced after evidence has been closed, at the stage of arguments. We cannot assess the impact on actual terms and, therefore, we can only impose damages or costs on principles which have been well settled by law,” stated the judgement.
As per the judgement, the developers instead of constructing 12 buildings, have constructed 18 and from 552 flats, the number of flats has gone up to 807. The Supreme Court did not permit the developer to raise construction of two new buildings which was proposed to have 454 tenements. The court has also asked the Pune Municipal Corporation to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh and take action against erring officials involved in the violation of environment norms.
Responding to the judgement, Atul Goel, Managing Director, Goel Ganga Developers said, “We are in receipt of a copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court dated August 10, 2018, and after reading the same, we feel vindicated on the points we had raised in the appeal. The Review Petition order by NGT dated January 8, 2018, was clearly erroneous, the issue as regards carbon footprint does not find a place in any statute books and the NGT clearly misdirected itself for the purpose of levying the damages. We also feel vindicated that the SC has refused the request of demolition made by the original applicant, Gambhire and has also categorically observed in paragraph 50 of the judgment that the original application filed by Gambhire is not a public interest litigation and therefore, his claim of special damages is specifically refused. Further, Gambhire has made allegations against various officers of PMC and Environment Department and the court has categorically refused to go into such allegations as such officers were not party to the proceedings before NGT or the Supreme Court.” “We have carefully read the definition of built-up area and its interpretation in light of notification issued by MoEF. We are in the process of taking advice from our lawyers and after careful perusal of the judgment and law related to it, we may decide the future course of action,” he added.
“We, Goel Ganga as a brand assure our all the flat purchasers that we have always work within the regime and have always carried out construction in accordance with law. We are the brand, which is in existence for more than 35 years in the industry and will continue to grow and take care of our flat purchasers with whatever cost it comes out,” he added.