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JIPMER approaches Madras HC seeking CCO certificate for new buildings

Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) has approached the Madras High Court seeking a direction to Puducherry Planning Authority (PPA) to issue completion-cum-occupancy certificate for 49,479 square metres of additional construction without insisting upon prior environmental clearance from the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Authority.

The writ petition has been listed for hearing before a Division Bench of Justices S.S. Sundar and N. Senthilkumar on Monday. In an affidavit filed on behalf of the institute, its Director Rakesh Aggarwal said, the EIA Notification 2016 makes it clear that no prior environmental clearance was required for constructions up to 1.5 lakh square meters put up by hospitals and educational institutions.

The affidavit, filed through advocate Sunita Kumari, stated that the Centre had established JIPMER in Puducherry in 1964 to cater to the needs millions of people, particularly the poor. Being one of the premier postgraduate medical institutions in the country, it was situated on a campus spread over 195 acres. In 2008, it was designated as an institute of national importance by an Act of the Parliament.

Several buildings including those for hospitals, hostels, administration, education and recreation had been constructed on the campus by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) till 2018. The CPWD never insisted on obtaining prior environment clearance. However, in 2018, a private contractor was engaged for expanding the hospital buildings by 27,217 sq mts and non hospital buildings by 13,552 sq mts.

Since the aggregate of the existing buildings and the new buildings came up to nearly 3.40 lakh sq mts, the private contractor (Larsen & Toubro) suggested that since the total constructed area was exceeding 1.5 lakh square metres, it would be advisable to apply for prior environment clearance. Accordingly, the institute applied for the approval on November 25, 2018 and obtained it on December 13, 2018.

Thereafter, the institute engaged CPWD to construct additional area of 49,479 square metres at a cost of ₹202.41 crore. Though most of these buildings had already been constructed after obtaining building plan approval from the PPA, the occupancy certificate was not being issued now because the EIA Authority had taken a stand that JIPMER ought to have to taken prior environmental clearance, the court has been told.

Dr Aggarwal told the court that out of 49,479 square metres, a 400-beded boys hostel planned over 18,000 square metres was yet to be constructed and remains in the stage of proposal. Only the remaining 31,479 square metres which included a blood bank and patient information centre (2,110 sq mtrs), indoor sports complex (3,812.60 sq mtrs) and so on had already been constructed.

“In the present case, as much as only 31,479 Sq mts were constructed. Therefore, prior environment clearance is not required. However, to satisfy the EIA Authority, a formal application was sent. The Authority has sent a reply stating that in lieu of a pending writ petition before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, regarding certain relaxation given by the Centre, the application cannot be processed,” his affidavit read. The Hindu

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