New Delhi: The inclusion of an advisor from Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL) in an environment ministry panel created a political uproar on Tuesday, with Opposition parties slamming the government for a perceived 'conflict of interest.' Janardan Choudhary, a key advisor to Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), was named as one of the seven non-institutional members by the Union Environment Ministry when it reconstituted the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for hydroelectricity and river valley projects in September.
The AGEL's 1,500 megawatt Tarali pumping storage project in Maharashtra's Satara came up for consideration during the reconstituted EAC's first meeting on October 17-18, according to the minutes of the meeting available on the Environment Ministry's PARIVESH portal.
Choudhary clarified to PTI that while he attended the October 17 meeting, he refrained from participating in the session focusing on the AGEL Tarali project. He said he serves as an advisor to AGEL and is not on the company's payroll. Choudhary had a 36-year tenure with NHPC and retired as Director (Technical) in March 2020. He assumed the role of advisor to AGEL in April 2022. He also said he had disclosed his affiliation with the company to the ministry before his appointment to the EAC.
The primary function of the EACs is to offer recommendations to the Environment Ministry regarding project proposals after evaluating their potential impacts. Based on these recommendations, the ministry decides whether to reject the proposal or grant clearance with specific conditions to mitigate or compensate for the impacts.
Latching onto the issue, political parties criticised the Narendra Modi government, questioning who appointed Choudhury to the EAC and why.
"Adani Pradhan Sevak appointed Adani employee Janardhan Choudhury as a member of EAC under Environment Ministry. This committee has to approve 6 Adani projects (10,300 MW)," the Kerala Congress posted on its official X account.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and Rajya Sabha member Priyanka Chaturvedi said on X: "Please don't even mention conflict of interest etc. that applies for others not where friends with benefits are concerned."
"If an ethics committee can hold an elected member of parliament guilty for sharing email by calling it a national security and conflict of interest issue, how is a person working as an advisor to a private company, a company that has pending approvals in MoEFs NAC be allowed a seat on the NAC itself? No issues of conflict of interest applicable here? No reasons to investigate and find out how he made it there, who put him there & why is he the chosen one?" she said.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra, facing possible expulsion from the Lok Sabha following a recommendation by the Ethics Committee, said, "Modiji's Ministry of Environment appointed Adani employee Janardhan Choudhury as a member of EAC - 6 Adani projects totaling 10300 MW up for appraisal by this @moefcc committee."