NTPC – Fake Gram Sabha Allegations, Jharkhand High Court Orders State Government To Present Details

Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority (JHALSA) made respondent and its opinion sought on Birhor community

In a significant development, a bench comprising Hon’ble Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad and Hon’ble Justice Arun Kumar Rai of the Jharkhand High Court has directed the state government to provide detailed information about the Gram Sabha process conducted regarding NTPC’s Pakri Barwadih coal project. This directive was issued during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by activist and whistle blower Mr. Mantu Soni, alleging that NTPC obtained forest clearance through a fraudulent Gram Sabha and by forging signatures.

In September 2015, this mining contract of Rs, 23,000 Crores was awarded to a joint venture of Thriveni Earthmovers and Sainik Mining to extract 15 million tonnes coal per annum.

Court’s Instructions:

  • Details of Gram Sabha: The court had previously asked the government for details of the Gram Sabha process. Although the government submitted a letter from the district administration, the court has now insisted on comprehensive details.
  • JHALSA’s Involvement: The court has included Jhalsa (Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority) as a respondent and sought its opinion on the matter. Additionally, the court has requested information regarding the Birhor community, a primitive tribe affected by the project.
  • CID Investigation Report: The court also asked for Jhalsa’s response on a CID investigation report that found discrepancies in the management of illegal mining activities.

Issues Highlighted:

  • Fake Gram Sabha Allegations: Advocates Naveen Kumar Singh and Deepak Kumar, representing the applicant, argued that NTPC conducted a fake Gram Sabha and forged signatures to obtain forest clearance.
  • Birhor Community: The court has specifically sought a response from the government about the impacts on the Birhor community, addressing concerns about this endangered group.
  • Illegal Mining Reports: The court referenced a situation where RN Mishra, the then Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), allegedly altered a report to minimize the extent of illegal mining from 400 acres to 100 acres. This discrepancy was later confirmed by a CID investigation and an investigation by the Government of India.
  • A report of the Criminal Investigation Department of the State of Jharkhand wherein the fact has been reported that one of the main source of the water is “Dumahi Nala” but the same has also been disturbed.

READ ALSO : https://indianpsu.com/why-is-ntpc-trying-to-protect-its-mdo-thriveni-sainik-even-after-a-whopping-fine-of-rs-857-crore-imposed-on-it/

Incomplete Government Response:

  • Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF): The court had directed the PCCF to file a personal affidavit concerning inaction on an investigation report related to the fake Gram Van Management and Conservation Committee. However, instead of the PCCF, the Regional Chief Forest Conservator (RCCF) submitted an incomplete affidavit, which was found misleading.
  • Investigation Officer’s Report: The court noted that the response regarding the investigation officer A.K. Parmar, who allegedly prepared a falsified report, was not fully disclosed. Although Parmar was show-caused, his response was not acted upon, a fact concealed from the court.

NTPC’s Position:

  • Rehabilitation and Employment: An advocate for NTPC claimed that the company is providing rehabilitation, displacement support, and employment. The court has requested detailed documentation of these claims.

One more point worth mentioning here is that the Maharatna (NTPC) has contended before the hon’ble court that the papers related to this Gram Sabha, were not relevant to this case.

The matter has been Listed for next hearing on 19.06.2024.

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