Maharashtra starts criminal cases against Lavasa officials


Pune : After dilly-dallying for months, the Maharashtra government Friday initiated criminal proceedings against Lavasa Corporation Ltd. for violating environmental regulations at its ongoing hill city project near here, officials said.

Support TwoCircles

In its case before Chief Judicial Magistrate N.T. Ghatge, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has named 15 company officials and charged them with violating Environment Protection Act, 1986, Sections 15 and 16.

The charges under these sections can attract punishment of five to seven years’ jail term.

The hearing in the case will start Nov 8.

“We have adhered to directives of the Bombay High Court in the matter and after consulting the law and judiciary ministry. Further action will be taken as per the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act and the directives by the Pune court,” state Environment Minister Sanjay Deotale told mediapersons Friday evening.

The action follows recent directions of the Bombay High Court to the state government to take “credible action” and the Oct 13 order of the union Ministry of Environment & Forests, stipulating certain conditions before the Lavasa project’s first phase could be cleared. The Lavasa township is located around 60 km from here and the first phase is spread over more than 7,200 hectares.

The officials named by the MPCB include six directors of the LCL board and nine other senior officials. These include: LCL chairman-cum-managing director Ajit Gulabchand, Shalaka Gulabchand, Aniruddha Deshpande, Vitthal Maniar and Gautam Thapar, against whom charges would be framed after the case scrutiny Saturday.

The National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement (NAPM) activist Vishwambhar Chaudhari, one of the petitioners in the case before the Bombay High Court, has also demanded that action should be taken against government officials who colluded in the matter.

“We shall plead before the Bombay High Court that the project should not be cleared till the trial is completed in the sessions court,” Chaudhari told media persons, referring to the scheduled hearing Nov 16.