New Delhi: Reliance Power Ltd, or RPL, part of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, misrepresented a key fact in its application seeking environmental clearance from the Union government for its 4,000MW power plant at Shahapur in Maharashtra, according to court documents that have been reviewed by Mint.

The late 2006 application stated that the project would not involve any change in existing rules on purposes for which land in the area could be used.

Court documents, however, show that these rules, also called land-use rules, for the area were amended by the Maharashtra government earlier this year at the company’s insistence, to allow a power plant to be built in the area.

A spokesperson for the company acknowledged receipt of a detailed questionnaire from Mint but had not responded to it till late Wednesday evening.

According to the norms of the ministry of environment and forests, or MoEF, that issues such clearances, misrepresentation of facts could lead to the rejection of a project and a revoking of the earlier approval. An MoEF official, who did not want to be named, said that under the law, the ministry could do this. The official was speaking generally and not about the Reliance case.

In this case, Reliance Power applied for an environmental clearance for the project to MoEF, through its subsidiary Maharashtra Energy Generation Ltd, or MEGL, on 5 December 2006. At the time, the company claimed there would be no change required in land-use laws governing the land on which the plant was to be built.

The ministry approved the project on 21 November 2007. And the Maharashtra government, on 11 August 2008, revised land-use laws in the area and said, “M/s Maharashtra Energy Generation Limited, Mumbai, has requested government to include the said lands into industrial zone for the purpose of setting up of power project and other related infrastructure facilities."

The documents do not say when MEGL applied to the state government asking for a change in land-use laws.

The court documents pertain to a case being heard by the National Environment Appellate Authority, or NEAA, and filed by a local farmer group, the Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti.

NEAA reserved its judgement at the last hearing on 15 October.

According to these documents, the land where the project is to come up is classified as Green Zone II. According to rules governing land use in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region under which Shahapur falls, land in Green Zone II may be used only for agricultural and allied activities with the quarrying of stone and mechanized stone crushing being permitted with prior approval of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.

Also See Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966 (PDF)

“The regional plan clearly puts the area in Green Zone II from 1996-2011 because it is eco-sensitive. But all this has been ignored...," said Anil Patil, secretary, Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti.

The commissioner of MMRDA, Ratnakar Gaikwad, could not be contacted and did not respond to a message left in his office.

The Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti had separately also filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay high court in 2006 against the land acquisition for the project by the state government. On 22 October, the court upheld the state government’s right to revise land use. It also allowed the state government to acquire the land, but not possess it.

Samir Kurkoti, additional district collector, Raigad, refused comment on the state government’s decision to change land-use laws and said, “Land acquisition is in progress."

Reliance Power has projects with a total capacity of 28,941MW in its portfolio. Of these, projects generating 941MW have already been commissioned. The rest are in various stages of planning and execution.

According to the company’s red herring prospectus dated 1 January, the 4,000MW Shahapur coal and Shahapur gas combined gas-fired and coal-fired power project will require an investment of Rs13,200 crore.