NEW DELHI — On 10 August 2018, the Supreme Court of India imposed damages of at least Rs 105 crore on Goel Ganga Developers (India) Pvt. Ltd for breaking environmental laws and to mitigate the ecological damage wreaked by the real estate company while constructing a residential and commercial project.
Goel Ganga, the Supreme Court said was “intransigent”, “unapologetic” and had “manipulated officials and authorities.”
Eight days later, Nitin Gadkari, the union minister for road transport and highways, wrote to the then environment minister, Dr. Harshvardhan, asking him to consider Goel Ganga Group’s request to effectively undo part of the Supreme Court’s judgment by reinstating an office memorandum issued by the environment ministry on 7 July 2017.
The Supreme Court had struck down that particular Office Memorandum terming it “totally illegal”. Government departments use office memoranda, or OMs, to clarify specific laws or policies.
“We expect the officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to take a stand which prevents the environment and ecology from being damaged, rather than issuing clarifications which actually help the project proponents to flout the law and harm the environment,” Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta had observed about the OM in their judgment.
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Nonetheless, documents obtained by HuffPost India under the Right to Information Act suggest that Gadkari, a senior union minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, wrote to Dr. Harshvardhan, the environment minister, to help the...