New Delhi: The Maharashtra government has been asked by the Supreme Court to respond to a plea against its environmental clearance to the Hiranandani group's Hindustan Electricity Generation Co Pvt Ltd (HEGCPL) for its 355 MW gas-based power project at Maval in Pune.

A bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Chandramauli K Prasad issued notices to the state government and others, asking them to file their replies within two weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on April 26.

"Issue notice...Counter affidavit may be filed within two weeks. Rejoinder affidavit, if any, may be filed within two weeks thereafter. Put up for further hearing on April 26, 2012," the bench said.

The bench order came on a plea by Navlakh Umbre Paryavaran Parisar Vikas Sangh, a group formed by the project- hit people of Navlakh Umbre and other adjacent villages, challenging the Bombay High Court order to the state government to grant environmental clearance for the project.

The petition said while giving clearance for the project, the social and environmental concerns was not addressed by the state.

While issuing notice to the state government, the apex court also said its March 1 order for keeping in "abeyance" the clearances given by the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of the Maharashtra government to the power project would continue.

"Interim order dated March 1, 2012 to continue in the meanwhile," the bench said.

The Bombay High Court had earlier directed the SEIAA to grant clearance to the project after the firm had approached it saying that it had withdrawn its plans to expand its project, which is now limited to 355 MW only, and the state can give clearance for it.

The firm had sought high court's directions for environment clearances for the power project from the state government, pointing out that as per a Central government's circular, the latter's clearance was required only for projects with capacity of 500 MW or above.

The Bombay High Court had asked the state government to grant clearance for the project agreeing with the firm's contention.

The high court said after the withdrawal of the expansion proposal by the firm, the Central government circular ceased to have any effect upon the company's project which was now limited to 355 MW and the state authorities could consider the same.

The Sangh, in its plea to the apex court, had said its various social and environmental concerns and those of the residents of the affected villages and various other procedural and legal objections in processing of the firm's request were given a go-by by the authority while adjudicating the same.

The Sangh had also said if a project proponent had applied for the initial phase of a power project which was ultimately expandable beyond 500 MW and the environmental clearance for the initial phase was yet to be accorded by the state authorities, the project proponent was required to apply afresh to the Central government for grant of environmental clearance for the entire project.

The petition had said when the Sangh filed a criminal complaint against the company's officials as well as the statutory officials in a court for their illegal actions, the SEIAA refrained from further acting upon the faulty recommendation of the SEAC.

Earlier, the company had applied for environmental clearance for the first phase (355 MW) of its 2,500 MW power project and in January 2010 moved an application before the Central government for clearance for the expansion of its project to 2,500 MW in terms of the notification.