Shimla, May 7 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal Monday charged the previous Congress government in the state with extending favours to Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. (JAL), which has been penalised by the high court for violating environmental norms.
Dhumal said his government was investigating the role of government officials in this regard.
"The previous government was responsible for granting the permission to Jaiprakash Associates for setting up a cement plant and a thermal power plant by ignoring mandatory codal formalities from 2004 to 2007," he told reporters here.
In a landmark judgement, the green bench of the Himachal Pradesh High Court May 4 imposed Rs.100 crore in damages on JAL for having set up a cement plant and dismantling a thermal plant, both in the state's Solan district, by violating environment laws and making false pleas before the authorities and the court.
The chief minister said the government was probing the role of officials involved in granting the permission to company to start the plants and action would soon be initiated against the erring officials.
"A former deputy commissioner, who was posted in Solan at the time of granting permissions during the previous Congress regime, is now an employee of Jaiprakash. Even the then chief minister (Virbhadra Singh) was in a hurry to sign MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the company," Dhumal said.
"When he (Virbhadra Singh) was returning to the state after his heart surgery, he preferred to sign the MoU at Barog (midway between Chandigarh and Shimla) and did not wait even to reach Shimla," he said.
Clarifying his government's stand, Dhumal said his government, which came into power in December 2007, had imposed a penalty and obtained lease money of Rs.4.10 crore from the company.
"The detailed project report of the project was prepared by the company during the Congress regime. It was also issued a licence by the previous government."
The division bench, comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol observed that Jaiprakash Associates obtained the environmental clearance based on falsehood as the company lied about the cost of the cement plant.
The court said that JAL managed to get the permission for the thermal plant without environment impact assessment (EIA) clearance. "Even after it was brought to the notice of the company that the EIA clearance was required, it continued to build the thermal Plant," it said.
The court observed that JAL successfully misled and hoodwinked the state government, H.P. State Pollution Control Board, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Environment Appraisal Committee and other authorities concerned.