The Madras high court on Friday adjourned for three weeks a case against Isha Foundation led by Jaggi Vasudev for constructing buildings in Velliangiri hills in Coimbatore between 2006 and 2014 without obtaining environmental clearance, after the union environment ministry and the Tamil Nadu government countered each other in their affidavits.
Isha foundation had challenged a notice by the Tamil Nadu government alleging the said buildings were constructed without obtaining environmental clearance between 2006 and 2014 as mandated by the central government’s environment impact assessment (EIA) notification, 2006.
In an affidavit, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) informed the high court on September 28 that the foundation’s buildings would come under infrastructure development and not under “educational institution” to claim exemption from environmental clearance.
According to reports, the TNPCB told the court that only 500 students were studying in the foundation’s school and they wouldn’t require an entire built-up area of 1.25 lakh square metres. The foundation submitted that since it was a “Yoga Institute” that worked for a person’s development they would come under the purview of educational institutions.
A division bench of acting chief justice T Raja and justice D Krishna Kumar, who couldn’t complete the hearing on Wednesday, posted the matter to Friday, and further adjourned by another three weeks.
This comes after the union government submitted to the court on September 26 that the foundation was exempted from environmental clearance since it was engaged in promoting education, countering the claim of the Tamil Nadu government.
The Coimbatore south district environmental engineer inspected the foundation in November 2021 and issued a show cause notice for prosecution.
Following which, the foundation moved the court contending that educational institutions were exempt from environmental clearance with the amendment made to the EIA notification in 2014.
In January 2022, the Madras high court provided the foundation a brief respite by restructuring environmental authorities in Coimbatore from taking any punitive action and posted it for further hearings.