Waidhan District Court dismisses Essar’s plea against Greenpeace

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Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh | 20 February, 2015| As government battles it out with Greenpeace on the Priya Pillai offloading case, the NGO won an interim plea against Essar’s attempt to enforce restrictions on Greenpeace at the District Court in Waidhan in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh. The court has summarily rejected Essar Power MP Ltd’s interim relief request to gag and restrain Greenpeace fromspeaking out against its mining plans in the forests of Mahan in Singrauli.

After filing a Rs 500 crore lawsuit in Bombay High Court last year, to prevent Greenpeace from saying anything against Essar, this was their second attempt to browbeat locals in the villages of Mahan and stifle all voices of opposition against Mahan coal mine which will feed Essar’s 1,200MW thermal power plant.

In their interim relief request, Essar had pleaded with the court for Greenpeace to be restrained from being within a perimeter of 100 meters from the Essar power plant, their fly ash storage pond and their rehabilitation colony in Nagwa. It had also pleaded for an interim gag order that would prevent Greenpeace from making statements or publishing anything including media articles in print or electronically on social media websites, leaflets, banners etc.

The Court rejected the interim relief request and noted that Essar Power had prima facie failed to establish its case for grant of interim relief. Greenpeace India has no restraining order on approaching the perimeter of the said establishments and is at liberty to continue to publish material in any form, as it chooses. The court also observed that the Essar Power had failed to prima facie make out its claim that the activities of Greenpeace in its periphery would be such that compensation would not be able to replace the damage.

“We welcome the court’s decision and are happy that the court has dismissed the plea. This was yet another Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) designed to attack freedom of speech. SLAPP suits are filed by corporations and governments to intimidate, censor, and silence critics by burdening them with a slew of lawsuits, draining them financially and emotionally until they abandon the opposition or criticism,” said Priya Pillai.

A senior campaigner with Greenpeace India, Pillai recently offloaded from her London-bound flight as she was on her way to address British MPs about the violations Essar Power has been committing in Mahan. Essar Power is a subsidiary of Essar Energy –a company registered in London, headquartered in Mauritius.

Following the historic verdict on the coal scam, Mahan coal block was de-allocated. The National Green Tribunal set aside the case following the cancellation of the coal block allotment by Supreme Court.

Greenpeace India welcomes the court’s decision and declares that they will continue their battle against undemocratic and unconstitutional practices.

For further reading

[1] About Mahan Sangharsh Samiti: There are 54 villages dependant on the Mahan forests of Singrauli. Community members from five villages (Amelia, Bandhaura, Budher,Suhira and Barwantola) in the Mahan forests have organised themselves under the banner of MSS to assert their forest rights and have been opposing the proposed Mahan coal mine (by Essar and Hindalco). After a public meeting in August 2013, six more villages joined the movement, further strengthening MSS.

The Mahan coal block was initially rejected by former Environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh. However, it was granted in-principal (Stage I) approval by the MoEF on October 18, 2012, after substantial pressure from the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Coal Mining. This approval came with 36 conditions, which require a range of studies to be completed and the processes under the Forest Rights Act to be complied with.

Mining in Mahan will impact the livelihoods of over 50,000 people. Mining in Mahan would mean opening doors for other coal blocks like Chatrasal awaiting approvals in the Mahan forests, which will further fragment the entire forests in the region.

 

[2] Gram Sabha Resolution of March 6, 2013: This special Gram Sabha on Forest Rights Act was held on March 6, 2013 to give a go-ahead to the mine. Though the Gram Sabha was attended by 182 people, a copy of the resolution acquired through Right to Information (RTI) has 1,125 signatures. The villagers have evidence that most of the signatures in the resolution have been forged.  The document even contains names of people, who have been dead for a long time. On February 12, 2014, Veerappa Moily-led environment ministry granted the stage II forest clearance on the basis of this doctored document. Following this, MSS began a peaceful Van Sataygraha and declared the clearance null and void.

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