The Union government Monday told the Madras High Court that Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation need not have sought prior environmental clearance for carrying out construction work between the years 2006 and 2014 at its premises in Coimbatore district [Isha Foundation v. Union of India and Others]..Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan told a bench of Acting Chief Justice T Raja and Justice D Krishna Kumar that the 2014 Environment Protection Amendment Rules of the Government of India granted exemption from such clearance to educational institutes, industrial sheds, and hospitals, and Isha Foundation could claim such exemption on the ground of being an institute that promotes education.In January this year, the Tamil Nadu government had issued a notice and initiated prosecution against the foundation on the ground that while it had carried out construction work, it had failed to obtain the mandatory environmental clearance under the Union government's Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006. The foundation, however, challenged the State government's action and said that the 2014 Environment Protection Amendment Rules were an extension of the 2006 Rules and were added to clarify that educational institutes, industrial sheds, hostels, hospitals etc. could avail the exemptionIt said that the 2014 amendment granted retrospective exemption to educational institutes and, therefore, the State government's action was illegal. The foundation also said that it had been carrying out construction work at its premises since 1994, much before the above Rules were introduced. TN Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram had previously argued that while the State had already initiated proceedings against Isha Foundation, it was for the centre to clarify on the issue of exemption. On Monday, initially the High Court bench questioned the rationale behind such exemption granted by the Central government. "Are educational institutions above the law? You are the one who makes the Rules and then you yourself grant exemptions," the High Court said. However, the Court seemed to have changed its mind midway through the hearing. Justice T Raja said that if such exemption was not granted to educational institutes, then prestigious institutes such as the Kodaikanal International School and Doon School would not exist. "In that case, people living in hilly areas such as Ooty and Kodaikanal would never have had any access to education," the High Court remarked. ASG Sankaranarayanan said that the purpose of the exemption was to prevent "harassment and to strike a balance." The Isha Foundation then said that it was a volunteer-run registered public charitable trust, founded in 1992. It said it had set up the Isha Yoga Centre in the Velliangiri hills in Coimbatore district in 1994 to run a group of educational institutions. A variety of courses on yoga, classical arts and Sanskrit were taught through a Gurukul format. The foundation also began imparting English-medium education, affiliated to the ICSE Board. The institutions were spread over 48.3 hectares in Velliangiri hills, it was submittedThe High Court will hear the matter further on Wednesday.ASG R Sankarnarayanan appeared for the Union government. Senior Advocate Satish Parasaran appeared for Isha Foundation.