Madras HC provides respite to Isha Foundation – The Indian Express

Chennai News

The Madras High Court on Tuesday forbore environmental authorities in Coimbatore from taking any punitive action against Isha Foundation, headed by Jaggi Vasudev.

The first bench of Acting Chief Justice M N Bhandari and Justice P D Audikesavalu provided the brief respite, while admitting and passing interim orders on a writ petition from the foundation.

After listening to the brief arguments of Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan and Advocate-General R Shanmugasundaram, the bench granted two weeks’ time to file a counter to the writ petition and to seek instructions in the matter. “In the meanwhile, the respondents would not proceed further in reference to the show cause notice for prosecution,” the bench said and posted the matter to February 1 for further hearing..

The charge against Isha Foundation was it had constructed buildings in the Velliangiri hills without obtaining environmental clearance between 2006 and 2014.

Petitioner’s senior counsel contended that the State government authorities had misconstrued the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued in 2014. It was only an extension of a similar notification issued in 2006 and therefore the exemption granted for buildings used for educational purposes must be extended from 2006 and not from 2014. The State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority was also clear on the issue, he claimed. Nevertheless, due to mala fide reasons, the officials had decided to prosecute the foundation after the recent change of regime, the counsel alleged.

Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram submitted that it was up to the Centre to clarify whether the 2014 notification would have retrospective effect from 2006 or not. The prosecution had been launched by filing a complaint before a Magistrate’s court.