Bombay HC accepts Essar’s affidavit to include malicious IB report that was ‘leaked’ last month

Press release - July 31, 2014
July 31, 2014, Mumbai: At the hearing of the interim gag-order on the Greenpeace, MP, the Bombay High Court today accepted Essar's affidavit to include the 'leaked' IB report that alleged that foreign funded NGOs like Greenpeace were a 'threat to national economic security'. The case seeks to stop Greenpeace's criticisms of Essar's planned coal mine in Mahan forests. Greenpeace India today warned that the IB report has become a tool in the hands of parties with vested interests, but affirmed it would fully respond to the issues in court.

"Essar is trying to use the innuendo and distortions contained in the 'leaked' IB report to question Greenpeace's motivations. We are happy to fully explain to the court that our sole purpose is to protect the environment and people's rights, and along with millions of Indians we want to see our precious forests protected. We are proud of our independence and our values, exemplified in the fact that we take no funding from any governments or corporations anywhere. The IB report was an attempt to malign our reputation and discredit us of all the good work that we have done," says Arundhati Muthu, campaigner with Greenpeace India.

"It was consistent with the pro-corporate, anti-environment intentions of the IB report that Essar would use the report in this way. Essar's case is known legally as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), designed to stifle criticism. Both the SLAPP suit and the IB report are part of a series of attacks on Greenpeace's efforts to save Mahan forest, and indeed on all civil society groups' stand for justice," says Muthu.

Essar has also tried to include the IB report in another case that Mahan Sangharsh Samiti[1] filed at the National Green Tribunal. Besides this, Essar has also filed a second SLAPP suit against Greenpeace and community members in Waidhan district court, MP and has been using the report to instigate communities residing in Mahan against Greenpeace India.

The court's decision comes amidst a massive clampdown on Greenpeace in Singrauli by the local police. The district administration has started a witch-hunt to clampdown on the growing public movement against Essar mining proposal. While the police conducted a raid in Amelia village and seized communication equipment earlier on Tuesday, in the middle of the night, the same day, they arrested two Greenpeace activists on false charges.

[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 will destroy 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.

For further information, please contact:

Arundhati Muthu: 09880639937;

Anindita Datta Choudhury: 09871515804;

Nitya Kaushik: 09819902763;