Raheja Developers have recently sent an email to buyers in the Raheja Atharva project, which stated blatant untruths about the status of the Environment Clearance of the project.
It is amazing that in just two sentences of the clarification, Raheja Developers have successfully made THREE seriously false assertions. The clarification to the Raheja Atharva buyers (in Sector 109 of Gurgaon), is
Clarification: Our Environmental clearance is well in place. We would like to apprise that our EC comes under 8(B) category which means the validity of the same lies till the completion of the project.
The three FALSE assertions are
- The Environmental Clearance (EC) of Atharva (Sector 109) is NOT in place. It is indeed the case that the EC of Navodaya (Sector 92-95) is not in place, and neither is the EC of Vedaanta (Sector 108) in place.
- The EC of Atharva is not under 8(B) category. In fact, there is no 8(B) category, though there is a 8(b) category. The EC of Atharva, and indeed Navodaya, and even that of Vedaanta, have all been obtained in 8(a) category.
- The validity of the EC does NOT lie till the completion of the project, and it does not matter whether it is 8(B) or 8(b). The validity whether it is 8(a) or 8(b) is only 5 years. And the validity of EC of Atharva, Navodaya, and Vedaanta, expired in mid-2014 itself .... if you ignore that the change in scope of all the projects resulted in expired EC much before 2014 ...
In Clause 3 of the EC dated 01 April 2009, it is clear that the EC is in 8(a) category, and also from Clause 9 of the EC it is clear that if there was anything wrong in the EC, the appeal had to be done within 30 days. It is confirmed in an inspection report of the MoEF dated March 2015, that Raheja Developers never made any appeals. So, no matter what happens, the EC clearance is in 8(a).
In fact, the application for Extension of EC that Raheja submitted for Atharva on 20 July 2015, also note the category in which extension is sought as 8(a), as seen in Clause 2 below.
Moreover, in all cover letters by Raheja asking for extension, it is stated that "For five year due to unavoidable circumstances we could not complete the project in the given period," which clearly indicates that the developer knew that the EC was valid for 5 years starting 01 April 2009 ... You can see the cover letters for Atharva, Navodaya, & Vedaanta below.
Even in the inspection report of the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) dated 03 March 2015, reference is made to the Environment Clearance dated 01 April 2009, and there is no observation that the clearance is provided under 8(a) category was wrong.
So, it is clear that Raheja and everyone of substance knew that Environmental Clearances were in 8(a), and hence Raheja is wrong to say that his clearance is in 8(B).
It is also interesting that there is no such category as 8(B) as can be seen from Page 18 of the Environment notification S.O. 1533 available here draft notification under sub-rule (3) of Rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 Dated 14 September 2006. There is a category called 8(b), and that is what probably Raheja meant.
But, why is Raheja claiming that his Environment Clearance is in 8(b)? The validity period of both 8(a) and 8(b) is 5 years, and in either case the Environment Clearance of all 3 Raheja projects (Atharva, Navodaya, Vedaanta) has expired. This is very clear if you look at pages 5 & 50 of the EIA Guidance Manual (or pages 6, 7, 26, 73 of the pdf), it is clear that in either case the validity is only 5 years.
If validity of both categories 8(a) and 8(b) is 5 years, then why is Raheja playing this whole game of trying to switch categories 7 years after the EC was obtained. The answer lies in understanding that a scientist in SEIAA is colluding with Rahejas, and helping him make a hash of the law of the land to try to escape the noose of the expired EC.
To understand it, you must look at the Gazette notification of 29 April 2015, which was on the validity of the Environmental Clearances ... and understand that by interpreting a : as a . (a colon : as a full stop .) Raheja hopes to change the meaning of the clause and escape from penalty & prosecution.
Specifically, look at clause (ii)
What mischievous Raheja is doing, in collusion with the scientist from SEIAA, is looking at only half of the sentence, and then trying to derive meaning that as long as the applicant as a developer (Raheja Developers) has not finished activities that may be his responsibility, the Environment Clearance is valid: whether for 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years ..... an on an on.
This interpretation is completely repugnant to what the clause actually says, and that is why it has a : (colon), not a . (full stop or period.). The definition of a colon is
What Raheja is ignoring after the : (colon) is "Provided that this period of validity may be extended by the regulatory authority concerned by a maximum period of seven years if an application is made to the regulatory authority by the applicant within the validity period ... " It means that the validity may be extended only if the application is made within validity period, which as the Gazette notification goes on to clarify in clause (iii) is a maximum of 90 days. The 90 days for Raheja were long over in 2014, and even earlier ....
This trick by naughty Raheja becomes clear when you read his cover letter for extension of Environment Clearance dated 10 May 2016 in the case of Navodaya. Read the letter carefully and marvel at the devious minds that came up with this ... It says,
- "As per the EIA notification in the case of Area development Projects and township (item 8(b)) the validity of period shall be limited only to such activity as may be responsibility of the applicant as a developer (refer Para 9 of the EIA Notification." ...
- Then it stops, instead of quoting the 2nd part after the : (colon). ...
- And, it glibly comes to the conclusion "In view of the above it is cleared that the project proposal y to which EC was granted is covered under 8(b) as the Built-up area is more than 1,50,000 m2 and the validity of the EC is limited to the responsibility of the applicant as a developer."
- And has the temerity to continue "It is therefore requested to carry out correction in the EC letter and also solicit clarification with regard to the validity of the EC as the same is urgently required for onward submission to other quarters."
- What a false and twisted interpretation !!!
Before this attempted switch to 8(b) category, Raheja had tried to swing it while being in the 8(a) category. He got someone in SEIAA (who signed "for" the Member Secretary, with just a scribble for a signature with no name to identify him), to write him a letter saying that his validity period for projects had been extended from 5 to 7 years automatically based on clause (i). This letter dated 01 December 2015 can be seen below for Navodaya & Vedaanta.
This was pretty stupid, and they soon realized that the clause (iii) and beyond did not allow for condonation of delay beyond 90 days ... Hence, this approach via (i) was dropped for approach via (ii), which was based on misinterpreting the clause "validity of period shall be limited only to such activity as may be responsibility of the applicant as a developer" to skip the clutches of clause (iii) and beyond.
Raheja Developers did goof up on this pretty badly, by accident or design, but by the time they woke up on July 20, 2015 and applied for extension of Environment Clearances, the Departments could no longer extend the Clearance as the 90 days window had long passed. Incidentally, Raheja applied for the extension of EC in all three projects Atharva, Navodaya, and Vedaanta, on the same day when buyers in all the three projects got answer by Right To Information (RTI) dated 20 July 2015, that Raheja had not yet applied for extension of EC in any of the projects till date!!
All the bickering about time period of validity is actually a moot question, because it is clear from clause  of the Environment Clearance dated 01 April 2009 that "in case of change(s) in scope of project, the project would require a fresh appraisal by SEIAA/SEAC, Haryana." In Atharva, Raheja had clearance of 528 apartments but has built more than 705 apartments, and in Navodaya has built 828 flats instead of the 599 for which he had clearance, thus significantly changing the scope of the project. The number of apartment increased in Vedaanta increased too, but to a lesser extent. When the scope of the project was changed, Environment Clearance of the project had expired then and there, and everything he has done after that is a violation of the law of the land.
And, the beautiful part is that Raheja can't play this 8(a) / 8(b) trick in Vedaanta, so Raheja just went ahead and settled with Joe Saggar & Raj Khanna, inducing them to withdraw the case. He can't do it because the built-up area of Vedaanta is less than 1,50,000 sq.m. Raheja's Environment Clearance in Vedaanta is dead as a duck.
Incidentally, the way the built-up area is measured in the Occupation Certificate is different from that the way built-up area is measured for the Environment Clearance.
- The Occupation certificate measures the covered area of all the floors, and includes basement area, whereas the
- Environment Clearance measures builtup area as the covered area of all floors, including basement, and including other service areas which are proposed in the building or construction projects.
And, the best part is that Mr Navin Raheja knew all this, and yet was busy making a fool of the world. Take a listen to him in this video starting at 3 mins
This all must have seemed like a nice game of words & interpretations, but the stakes are very high. Hundreds of apartments could get sealed, and construction at hundreds more could be stopped dead cold. Hundreds of people could even lose all their life savings in this little game of smart, smarter, smarty pants.
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