MoEF accepts pro-Lavasa report, but HC doesn't lift stay on work

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that it had accepted a 3 March recommendation by its expert appraising committee to permit completion of 257 buildings in the controversial Lavasa township project near Pune, but subject to several stringent conditions.

Lavasa Corp (an arm of the Hindustan Construction Co) on its part sought to withdraw its petition against the MoEF questioning its jurisdiction, but changed its mind when the court ruled to maintain the stay on construction.

''We are submitting to the ministry of environment and forests' jurisdiction without prejudice,'' Lavasa's counsel Mukul Rohatgi said, pointing out that it makes sense to withdraw since the project is incurring Rs5 crore loss per day.

But the court ruled that the ministry's 17 January status quo order on Lavasa that had brought construction to a standstill should be maintained even if the company were to withdraw its petition, as it could not ignore the several public interest litigations filed in this regard.

Lavasa, unwilling to contend with an adverse order, said it did not wish to withdraw its writ petition. As a result, the court will now hear the matter in due course on merits.

Along with a petition by Lavasa, the high court was hearing another by a public interest litigant and an intervener, both against Lavasa.