SC Stays NGT Judgment Approving Char Dham Project [Read Order]

SC Stays NGT Judgment Approving Char Dham Project [Read Order]

The Supreme Court has stayed the operation of the judgment of the National Green Tribunal which approved the "Char Dham Highway project" in Uttarakhand.

The SC bench of Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Abdul Nazeer passed the stay order in an application filed by an NGO, 'Citizens for Green Doon' and few other local residents, who alleged unfairness and lack of propriety on the part of NGT in dealing with the Original Application filed by them.

According to them, the final judgment in the Original Application was delivered by a bench which was different from the bench which initially heard the matter. The matter was initially considered by a three member bench of Justice Dr. Jawad Rahim, Justice S.P. Wangdi and Dr. Nagin Nanda, which reserved the case for judgment after final hearing on May 31. However, after the appointment of new chairman-retired SC judge Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel- the matter was listed for rehearing before the bench headed by him.

Challenging this course of action adopted by the NGT, the applicants approached the SC, contending that a new bench cannot rehear a matter which has been finally heard and reserved for orders by another bench. They submitted that in the fitness of things, the matter should go back to the bench which reserved the matter on May 31. Accepting the submission, the SC bench headed by Justice Nariman observed on August 27 : "Since  the matter appear to be a complex one and has been heard over several days, we take it that the rehearing will only be on some final aspects"

The SC bench disposed of the matter, requesting the NGT Chairman to allocate the case to the same bench which heard the matter.

On September 4, when the O.A was listed before the bench of Justice Dr. Jawad Rahim, Justice S.P. Wangdi and Dr. Nagin Nanda, it referred the matter to a larger bench. Contending that the order of reference made by the bench was not in consonance with the SC direction of August 27, the applicants filed an application in the SC, seeking stay of the reference order. Since the SC observed that the re-hearing will only be on some "final aspects", an elaborate hearing by larger bench was uncalled for- the applicants contended.

However, the application did not get immediate listing in SC. Meanwhile, the O.A  happened to be listed before the NGT bench headed by Justice A K Goel on September 26, in pursuance of reference order passed on Septebmer 4. On September 26, the bench headed by Justice Goel passed final judgment, permitting the execution of Char Dham project.

On October 22, the stay application filed by the applicants in SC got listed before the bench headed by Justice Nariman. After hearing the submissions of Sanjiy Parikh, the counsel for the applicants, the bench issued notice to respondents and stayed the operation of the NGT judgment.

The applicants challenged the 'Char Dham Highway Project' in Uttarakhand on the ground that project  involved widening of 900kms of double-lane highway in the Himalayan region leading to diversion of a vast area of reserved forest/forest area in ecologically fragile region full of active landslides.  It was alleged that the work commenced without taking environment clearance under the EIA Notification, 2006 and that the forest clearances were taken in complete violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The first NGT bench which heard the matter had stayed the felling of trees for the project and ordered that there shall be no activity that will adversely impact the environment.

Read Order