Madras HC quashes TN pollution board order against Isha Foundation – Hindustan Times

Chennai News

The Madras high court on Wednesday ruled in favour of Isha Foundation led by Jaggi Vasudev popularly known as Sadguru in a case against the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

The court quashed a prosecution initiated by the pollution control board against the yoga centre for constructing buildings in the Velliangiri hills in Coimbatore without obtaining environmental clearance between 2006 and 2014 as per the Central Government’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.

Acting chief justice T Raja and justice D Krishnakumar thus allowed a plea by Isha Foundation’s Yoga Centre that it is an educational institution which doesn’t require prior environmental clearance for construction. They observed that since the centre was promoting yoga it came within the definition of an ‘educational institution’ and was exempted from seeking prior environmental clearance.

In November 2021, the Coimbatore south district environmental engineer inspected the Foundation and issued a show cause notice for prosecution. Following which, the Foundation moved 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 Isha a brief respite by restructuring environmental authorities in Coimbatore from taking any punitive action and posted it for further hearings.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had informed the court earlier on September 28 that the Foundation’s buildings would come under infrastructure development and not under “educational institution” to claim exemption from environmental clearance.

The state argued 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. But the Foundation had contended that since it was a ‘Yoga Institute’ which worked for a person’s development they would come under the purview of educational institutions.

The union government had submitted to the bench on September 26, that Isha was exempted from environmental clearance since it was engaged in promoting education.