Forests, Property, Environmental Impact Assessments, Wildlife, Administrative, Constitutional, Prevention, Permits, Standing, Jurisdiction
The petitioner seeks a writ of Mandamus forbearing the respondents from converting the use of lands covered by some lakes and catchment area, feeding canals and punjai and nanjai agricultural lands lying around the aforesaid lakes situated within the four boundaries, on the North by Sriperumbudur and Vallakottai, east by Sriperumbudur and Singaperumal Koil Road and West by Mettupalayam-Vallamkandigai Villages and Vallakottai Murugan Temple tank, from agricultural to industrial use and to protect the said lands covered by the lakes and ponds in the interest of general public. The core issue which arises for consideration is as to whether the Government is bound to conduct an Impact Assessment Study before proceeding further with the process of acquisition of such large extent of land which includes canals, ponds, eri and other water bodies as well as wet lands. Article 48-A of the Constitution whereby a duty was imposed on the State to endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife of the country and Article 51-A which declares that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures are invoked by the Courts for protecting environment and ecology and several orders were passed in public interest litigation mandating the State to take action for protecting forests, rivers and anti-pollution measures. Keeping in view the direction given by in Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board v. C. Kenchappa,(2006) 6 SCC 371, based on the public trust doctrine,and since the land acquisition proceeding is only in the preliminary stage now, The Madras Court isof the view that before issuing the notification under Section 3(1) of the Act the authorities have to approach the statutory authority constituted under the environment (Protection) Act for environmental clearance. The report of the statutory authority must also be considered by the Government while dealing with the objections submitted by the land owners and the other interested persons, including the petitioner and the fifth respondent in pursuance of the notice issued under Section 3(2) of the Industrial Purposes Act. The statutory authority should approach the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority for prior environmental clearance. Only after clearance is given,it would be open to the Government to proceed further with the acquisition of property. Appropriate provisions should be incorporated in the Lease Agreements mandating preservation of ecology and to maintain the ponds and other natural streams by the concerned industrial units.