New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked Adani Hazira Port Pvt. Ltd (AHPPL) to deposit a 25 crore penalty imposed on it by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for adversely impacting the environment in Hazira, Gujarat, with its port project.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur gave AHPPL four weeks to deposit the fine imposed by the NGT for restoring the damaged environment in the region.

The apex court’s order came in a hearing of an appeal filed by AHPPL against a 8 January decision of the NGT, quashing environmental clearances given to the port in Surat, Gujarat.

The court also issued notices and sought responses from the environment ministry, the government of Gujarat, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, the Gujarat Maritime Board and the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority. The court has asked the authorities to file reports on environmental compliance by AHPPL.

The Hazira Macchimar Samiti, an association of fishermen in the region, had challenged the environmental clearance (EC) granted in 2013 by the environment ministry to AHPPL for further construction and development of the port before the green tribunal.

The fishermen had contended that the 2013 EC amounted to expansion of the port and would hinder appropriate, safe and proper access to seawater for the traditional fishermen of Hazira village to undertake traditional fishing in the inter-tidal zone.

The Supreme Court has also asked AHPPL to pay 8 lakh towards litigation fees of the association and three other individual petitioners.

On Thursday, a bench comprising chief justice Thakur, justices A.K. Sikri and R. Banumathi refused to pass an order to restart construction of the port. “If you can operate the port without further construction under the 2013 EC, we won’t stop you," the court said.

The court also noted that an earlier environmental clearance granted in 2003 to Hazira port is still operative and has not come under challenge. Adani is currently the developer of Hazira port.

“In case of non-compliance of directions (to pay penalty), work carried out for reclamation in the area of 25 hectares, around circle of the creek, shall be demolished by the collector and the land restored," NGT had said in its 8 January judgement.

The Supreme Court bench on Thursday assured that demolition would only be resorted to in case of non-compliance.

Advocate P. Chidambaram told the court that environmental compliance reports are being filed every six months and all government bodies concerned in Gujarat had told the tribunal that construction need not be stopped. “Grave errors can be pointed out in the tribunal’s order which is why it should be set aside," he argued.

An external spokesperson for the company said in an email that the court stayed the direction of demolition of construction on 25 hectares on condition that the port operator would deposit the 25 crore penalty, “which is to be kept in an escrow account till matter is finally heard".

She said “neither our construction nor operations are affected in any manner".

Close