New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the operation of National Green Tribunal’s May 4 order directing the demolition of a hotel-cum-restaurant built at McLeodganj multipurpose commercial bus stand and inquiry against officials of the Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority (HPBSMDA).
A vacation bench of Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Ashok Bhushan however asked the HPBSMDA to deposit the cost of Rs.10 lakh imposed by the green tribunal.
McLeodganj, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered, is located a suburb of Dharamshala area of Himachal’s Kangra district.
While staying in parts, the operation of the NGT order, calling for the hotel to be razed within two weeks, the bench issued notice Central Empowered Committee on environment matters.
The NGT had imposed cost on project concessionaire, Prashanti Surya Construction Co, the state tourism department and the HPBSMDA.
The court, while issuing notice, asked the HPBSMDA to make suitable amendments in their petition in the part assailing the NGT order.
The authority, in its plea, contended that the union environment and forest ministry had already permitted the diversion of 0.093 hectares and 0.48 hectares of forest land in McLeodganj for the construction of the parking and bus stand by separate orders of November 12, 1997 and March 1, 2001.
Telling the court all that was done at the bus stand was in public domain and nothing was secret, it, in its petition, has said: “The commercial features of the bus stand was the primary attraction for the investors to participate in the bidding since without the same the said project was commercially unviable.”
Assailing the NGT order of imposing penalty by invoking the principle of “polluter pays”, the HPBSMDA has contended that it did so without recording the reasons as to what damage was caused.
Contesting the NGT order directing inquiry against HPBSMDA officials on their purported collusion with the project proponent, the petition described it as “erroneous and unwarranted since the said project was always in public domain and the officials were merely fulfilling their mandate as is contemplated in the objectives of the authority and no secrecy whatsoever was ever there in relation to development of incidental and ancillary facilities as a part of the overall infrastructure of the bus stand”.