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Isha Foundation ‘Educational Institution’ as It Teaches Yoga: Madras HC

The Madras high court on Wednesday granted Isha Foundation’s plea against a show-cause notice issued to it in Tamil Nadu for carrying out construction work between 2006 and 2014 in Coimbatore without obtaining mandatory environmental permit as per the plant’s environmental impact assessment notice government, 2006.

The Bench of Acting Chief Justice T Raja and Judge D Krishnakumar noted that since the foundation was carrying out construction works for promoting group development activities and yoga, it fell under the definition of an educational institution and thus was exempt from requiring prior environmental permitting.

The court also noted that an interim stay by the Kerala High Court on the operation of the exemption was limited to the jurisdiction of the Kerala HC and thus the Madras High Court was not bound by the interim stay.

The interim order of the Kerala HC only applies within the territorial limits of the state, the court noted.

The foundation had previously claimed that according to a clarification from the Center in 2014, all educational institutions, industrial sheds and hostels are exempt from the requirement to obtain a mandatory environmental permit before construction work begins.

Thus, as a yoga center “engaged in promoting mental development”, Isha Foundation had claimed that it would fall within the scope of an educational institution.

Advocate General of Tamil Nadu, R Shunmugasundaram, argued that the foundation’s claim to be an educational institution was “disputed”.

He had said that even if one accepts that the foundation’s yoga centers qualify as educational institutions, such educational structures occupy only about 10,000 square meters of the more than 1.25 lakh square meters of the foundation building in Coimbatore.

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However, senior advocate Satish Parasaran said on behalf of the foundation that according to an office memorandum dated May 19, 2022, to clarify the 2014 notice, educational institutions were defined as schools, colleges and any other institution that focused on one’s “physical, mental and moral development.” “

Thus, he argued, the foundation was not required to apply for prior environmental permits to carry out construction work between 2006 and 2014 on its property in Coimbatore district.

The Center also supported the position of the Isha Foundation, stating that it could claim an exemption on the grounds that it is an institution that promotes education.

The court accepted the Isha Foundation’s claim and ruled that “the one lakh twenty-five thousand square feet of group development construction will, in our opinion, fall within the scope of the amended notice”.

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