Development is necessary but safeguarding the environment is also important, says Supreme Court


New Delhi, June 1 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed proceedings in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which halted construction at Rushikonda Hills adjoining Visakhapatnam Beach, finding that while development is necessary, it is equally important to protect the environment.

A vacation bench of Justices BR Gavai and Hima Kohli said the High Court order would prevail over court orders, in a scenario where the two passed conflicting orders. She said the NGT had no reason to continue the proceedings before it, after being pointed out that the high court was already seized of the case and had issued orders.

The Supreme Court pointed out that conflicting orders would be a problem for the authorities concerned, as they would not know which order to follow. “In such a case, the orders of the constitutional court would prevail over the orders of the court,” he said.

During the hearing, the panel stressed that it is important to find a balance between development and environmental issues, because while development is necessary for the economic development of a nation, it is also necessary for the safeguarding of the ‘environment. Justice Gavai stressed the importance of ensuring a pollution-free environment for future generations.

The higher court made the comments while hearing a plea from the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the NGT order, which halted construction work on a tourism project at Rushikonda Hills in Visakhapatnam.

The bench noted that the High Court had cleared the construction, so it would be appropriate for them to make a decision on the matter – balancing development and environmental issues.

Lawyer Balaji Srinivasan, counsel for the respondent, argued before the bench that the hills had been razed and could not be restored, and insisted that if construction were to continue, the hills would be lost. He added that the hills are being flattened and the station is under construction, and insisted that the natural character of the hills must be preserved.

The bench requested the parties to appear before the high court in this case and also granted freedom to the defendant, MP K Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, to file an application for impeachment before the high court.

He said until the High Court rules on the matter, construction will only be allowed on flat areas and the area where construction previously existed. The High Court made it clear that until the High Court decides the matter, no construction will be carried out on the areas carved into the hills, and the parties are free to raise issues, which would be considered in accordance to the law. At the end of the hearing, the panel canceled the proceedings before the NGT.

The court order, passed in May, followed a petition filed by Raju alleging breach of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) standards by the project.

The NGT has also set up a joint committee to review the environmental viability of the project and determine whether the CRZ permits should be reconsidered. It was alleged that the master plan notified by the Department of Urban Development had been breached and the petitioner claimed that the area was also environmentally sensitive.

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