The central government told the Madras High Court that self-proclaimed spiritual guru Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation did not require prior environmental clearance to carry out construction work in the Coimbatore district between 2006 and 2014, Bar and Bench reported.
Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan told the High Court tribunal that the Environmental Protection Amendment Rules 2014 granted environmental clearance exemption to educational institutes, industrial sheds and hospitals.
He said the Isha Foundation could claim such an exemption because it is an “institution that promotes education,” and the purpose of the exemption was to prevent “harassment and strike a balance.”
“Are educational institutions above the law? You make the Rules and then you grant exemptions yourself,” the High Court said.
“In that case, people living in hilly areas such as Ooty and Kodaikanal would never have had any access to education,” he added.
The bench adjourned the matter to Wednesday for further arguments.
The Tamil Nadu government issued a notice and initiated legal proceedings against the foundation in January this year on the grounds that although it had carried out construction work, it had not obtained the required environmental clearance as per the Impact Assessment Notice of 2006.
However, the foundation disputed the state government’s action, saying that the 2014 Environmental Protection Amendment Rules were an extension of the 2006 Rules and were added to clarify that educational institutes, industrial buildings, hostels, hospitals, etc. could take advantage of the exemption.
The foundation further argued that since the 2014 Rules granted an exemption to educational institutes, the notification by the state government that it was taking legal action against the foundation was illegal. It said that it had been carrying out construction work on its premises since 1994, long before the Rules were introduced.
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