Isha Foundation is 'yoga centre', does not require prior environmental clearance: Madras High Court
The Isha Foundation said that taking into account the Centre's clarification, the Madras High Court quashed a show cause notice "issued on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the law".
In a breather for spiritual leader Jaggi Vasudev's Isha Foundation, the Madras High Court on Wednesday (December 14) quashed the show cause notice issued to it by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for allegedly carrying out construction work between 2006-2014 in Velliangiri Hills in Coimbatore without having mandatory environmental clearance.
The Isha Foundation had approached the High Court in January, challenging the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) notice for constructing several buildings at Velliangiri hills without obtaining prior environmental clearance between 2006 and 2014. The organisation had also challenged Union Environment and Forests ministry's 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification on the apprehension that the notification does not grant an exemption to it.
The First Division Bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice T Raja and Justice D Krishnakumar, observed that the yoga centre comes under the definition of 'educational institution' and therefore, the constructions would be entitled to exemption from the requirement of environmental clearance.
The court had in January given relief to the Isha Foundation, restraining environmental authorities from taking any punitive action and posted it for further hearings. The TNPCB had argued that the buildings constructed by Isha Foundation would not fall under the category of 'educational institution' but rather in the segment of infrastructure development. It contended that 1.25 lakh square metres would not be needed to educate only 500 students.
But then, after the Centre enhanced the definition of 'educational institution' in May this year to include institutions that impart training on things essential for moral, mental and physical development, the Isha Foundation amended its petition in the high court and only challenged the TNPCB's action.
In a statement, the Isha Foundation said that taking into account the Centre's clarification, the Madras High Court quashed a show cause notice "issued on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the law".
The statement added that the Foundation is committed to protecting the environment and being compliant with all applicable laws.