HC sets aside MPCB’s closure order against part of Rohit Pawar’s firm; says it was passed ‘hastily’

The Bombay High Court on Thursday set aside the closure order passed by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) against part of Baramati Agro Ltd, a firm run by Sharad Pawar-led NCP’s MLA Rohit Pawar.

A division bench led by Justice Nitin Jamdar said the MPCB order was set aside for being “disproportionate” and noted that the order was passed in a “hasty manner”.

The bench has directed the MPCB to hear and decide the matter afresh on the basis of the show-cause notice issued to the company initially.

The MPCB had issued the closure order notice on September 27, directing the closure of part of the Baramati Agro Ltd within 72 hours. The company challenged this notice before the high court.

The bench had earlier this month in an ad-interim order directed the MPCB to not operate the closure notice.

The firm in its plea filed through advocate Akshay Shinde alleged that the order has been passed “owing to political influence and considering the present political situation to pressurise the director of the petitioner company, that is Rohit Pawar, who is also a member of the legislative assembly of Maharashtra.”

Rohit Pawar, who is the grand-nephew of Sharad Pawar, is the CEO of Baramati Agro Ltd. He represents the Karjat-Jamkhed assembly constituency in Ahmednagar district.

Baramati Agro works in the fields of animal and poultry feed manufacturing, sugar and ethanol manufacturing, co-generation of power, trading of agri-commodities, fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

The petition claimed that the company has obtained necessary permissions from time-to-time to operate the unit and that it was also granted Environmental Clearance in 2022.

The MPCB claimed that during regular inspection of the unit situated in Pune, certain irregularities were found.

In September, the MPCB issued a show-cause notice to the petitioner company which was responded to and a personal hearing was also held.

“However, the MPCB officials failed to take into consideration any explanation, clarification or evidence submitted by the petitioner company and issued an order on September 27 directing close-down of the manufacturing activities of the unit without 72 hours,” the plea said.

The plea added that the impugned order of the MPCB was arbitrary, illegal, unlawful and discriminatory in nature.

It added that the order was in violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioner to carry out business or trade and that directing for closure of the unit was an extremely stringent and disproportionate action.

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The petition added that the unit has been operating since 2007-2008 and since then there has not been a single instance of any environmental violation.

It further said that the unit which has been ordered to be closed down is situated within the same premises as the sugar factory run by the company and that supply of water and electricity are commonly connected.

It said closing of this unit would result in stoppage of electricity and water supply to the sugar factory hence causing irreparable harm and loss.

The MPCB had claimed that the closure order was issued due to serious environmental violations and as the firm was causing environmental damage.

The MPCB in its affidavit filed earlier also refuted the allegations that the order was passed in a predetermined and motivated manner claiming that it is an “allegation made out of desperation”.

It added that considering the serious violations, the action was taken expeditiously.

The MPCB said that it is open for the company to comply with the norms and come back to the board.

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