New Delhi: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday said a special provision of the Constitution grants immunity to port and airport projects from seeking environment and forest clearances and the law ministry's opinion has also been sought on this matter.
The remarks come at a time when projects worth more than Rs 25,000 crore are lying stuck at India's 12 major ports in want of green clearances.
"The Constitution of India has a special provision that for airports... and major ports, there is no requirement for environment and forest clearances," the shipping and road transport minister said here.
Stating that the Constitution has made this special provision in view of development of the country, he said that unfortunately, there are a large number of port projects that are stuck in want of environment and forest clearances in the country.
"When I got to know about it through a representation, I read the Constitution. ... we met Union Minister of State for Law and Justice P P Chaudhary on this yesterday (Thursday). He read it and said you are absolutely correct. We have sent the file to him yesterday for law ministry's opinion. They have started work on that," Gadkari, who also holds water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation portfolios, said.
Once the subject gets clearance from the law ministry, the shipping ministry will go ahead with a notification that no environment nod is needed for port projects clearances, he said, adding that if all goes well, the aviation ministry can also come out with a notification about airport projects.
Article 364 which deals with "special provisions as to major ports and aerodromes" provides that "notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the President may by public notification direct that as from such date as may be specified in the notification (a) any law made by Parliament or by the legislature of a state shall not apply to any major port or aerodrome or shall apply thereto subject to such exceptions or modifications as may be specified in the notification..."
It also states that "(b)... any existing law shall cease to have effect in any major port or aerodrome except as respects things done or omitted to be done before the said date, or shall in its application to such port or aerodrome have effect subject to such exceptions or modifications as may be specified in the notification".
The constitutional provision explains that major port means a port declared to be a major port by or under any law made by Parliament or any existing law and includes all areas for the time being included within the limits of such port while aerodrome means aerodrome as defined for the purposes of the enactments relating to airways, aircraft and air navigation.
A senior official which did not wish to be quoted said that projects worth more than Rs 25,000 crore were stuck in want of environment and forest clearances at major ports.
India has 12 major ports: Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic.
Projects worth Rs 1.85 lakh crore have been awarded under the ambitious port-led development programme Sagarmala by March 2018.
A total of 224 projects — entailing an investment to the tune of Rs 1.85 lakh crore — were launched by March 31, 2018, Ministry of Shipping has said earlier.
It said 196 projects worth Rs 71,868 lakh crore are expected to be awarded in 2018-19.