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Adjudicatory Function Of National Green Tribunal Cannot Be Assigned To Expert Committees: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
7 Sep 2021 8:19 AM GMT
Adjudicatory Function Of National Green Tribunal Cannot Be Assigned To Expert Committees: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that adjudicatory function of the National Green Tribunal cannot be assigned to committees.The discharge of its functions cannot be obviated by tasking committees to carry out a function which vests in the tribunal, the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah and Hima Kohli observed.In this case, an appeal before the NGT challenged grant of...

The Supreme Court observed that adjudicatory function of the National Green Tribunal cannot be assigned to committees.

The discharge of its functions cannot be obviated by tasking committees to carry out a function which vests in the tribunal, the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah and Hima Kohli observed.

In this case, an appeal before the NGT challenged grant of environmental clearance to a project proponent for the expansion of the capacity of its refinery situated in the petrochemical complex at Vadinar, District Devbhumi Dwarka, Gujarat. The main ground of challenge was that the expansion was likely to cause an adverse impact on the marine environment, both in terms of the mangroves and marine biology. While disposing of the appeal, the NGT recorded the submission of the project proponent that all the EC conditions would be duly complied with and due mitigation measures would be taken to ensure the safety of mangroves and marine environment. It also constituted a three member Committee and directed the project proponent to ensure that all necessary safeguards are adopted and EC conditions are duly complied with.

In appeal, the Apex court bench noted that Section 16(h) of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, provides that any person aggrieved can file an appeal before the Tribunal challenging an order granting environmental clearance in the area in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations and processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. In this case, the bench noted, the NGT merely based its conclusion on the statement which has been made by the project proponent and has not conducted an independent appraisal of the grounds of challenge.

"The specific ground before the NGT was that the expansion of the refinery will cause serious hazards to both the marine biology and to mangroves. The NGT observed that the project was already in existence and there was no continuing grievance against its functioning insofar as environmental norms are concerned. This observation would not conclude the issue as to whether the expansion of the project would have a deleterious impact on the environment", the bench said.

The bench observed that the NGT has not dealt with the substantive grounds of challenge in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction.

"Constitution of an expert committee does not absolve the NGT of its duty to adjudicate. The adjudicatory function of the NGT cannot be assigned to committees, even expert committees. The decision has to be that of the NGT. The NGT has been constituted as an expert adjudicatory authority under an Act of Parliament. The discharge of its functions cannot be obviated by tasking committees to carry out a function which vests in the tribunal.", the court said while allowing the appeal and directing the NGT to reconsider the appeal afresh.


Also read: "NGT, Being An Adjudicatory Body Of First Instance, Is Expected To Record Reasons For Decisions": Supreme Court

Case: Sanghar Zuber Ismail vs. Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change ; CA 4543 of 2021
Citation: LL 2021 SC 420
Coram: Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah and Hima Kohli
Counsel: Adv Purvish Jitendra Malkan, AOR Khushboo Vinodray Malkan for appellant, Sr. Adv Dhruv Mehta, AOR Somiran Sharma for respondents


Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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