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

Mehal Jain
31 Aug 2021 4:24 PM GMT
NGT, Being An Adjudicatory Body Of First Instance, Is Expected To Record Reasons For Decisions: Supreme Court
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In one of the two matters, while remanding back an appeal against the grant of EC, the bench observed that there is 'no application of mind by the NGT' that the EC for expansion was not valid in view of the impact on marine biology and mangroves.

Expressing disappointment with the adjudication of the NGT in 2 separate matters, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restored to the files of the Tribunal an Original Application, and in another unconnected matter, remanded back to it an appeal against the grant of an Environmental Clearance disposed off by it.The bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, M. R. Shah and Hima Kohli was hearing a challenge...

Expressing disappointment with the adjudication of the NGT in 2 separate matters, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restored to the files of the Tribunal an Original Application, and in another unconnected matter, remanded back to it an appeal against the grant of an Environmental Clearance disposed off by it.

The bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, M. R. Shah and Hima Kohli was hearing a challenge to a February order of the NGT by which, as recorded by the Apex Court in issuing notice, the Tribunal had dismissed an Original Application 'without any discussion on the merits and it merely observed that it found no tangible material to substantiate the plea raised in the application' [M/S Gujarat Enviro Protection And Infrastructure Haryana (Pvt.) Ltd V. M/S Power Grid Corporation Of India Ltd]. 
Prayer in the OA was to relocate the High Transmission Electric overhead line at least 50 meters away from the Treatment Storage Disposal Facility (TSDF) landfill site at Faridabad, Haryana.
"According to the applicant, the applicant has set up TSDF plant for management, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste generating in Haryana. The Power Grid Corporation of India Limited has installed high transmission electric line adjacent to their landfill site which can cause disaster. We have heard the learned counsel for the applicant. We do not find any tangible material to substantiate the plea raised in the application. Accordingly, the application stands disposed of", the NGT bench, headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, had observed in the impugned order.

Dictating its order on Tuesday, the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court declared, "The Tribunal, being an adjudicatory authority of the first instance, is expected to record reasons for its decisions"

The bench further dictated that the impugned order "ex-facie does not disclose any reasons being indicated by the Tribunal".

"In the absence of any reasons whatsoever, we are inclined to allow the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the Tribunal. The OA shall stand restored to the file of the National Green Tribunal", ordered the bench.

In issuing notice on the said appeal, the Supreme Court had on August 2 recorded as the submission of the appellant that,

"As a matter of fact, the appellant, which is conducting a Treatment Storage Disposal Facility for the disposal of hazardous waste, was relying on the provisions of Rule 3(7) and Schedule I of the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 which mandate the maintenance of a buffer zone around the Waste Management Plant. Apart from the above Rules, reliance is also placed on the Guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board which mandate a minimum buffer zone around the Solid Waste Processing and Disposal Facility."

In the second matter, the three-judge bench was hearing the challenge to the June order of the NGT on an appeal against the grant of an EC for expansion of Refinery Capacity of an oil refinery in Gujarat, from 20 MMTPA to 46 MMTPA with a Petro-Chemical Complex [Sanghar Zuber Ismail V. Ministry Of Environment, Forests And Climate Change]

In the impugned order disposing off the appeal, the NGT had said,

"We have given due consideration to the grievance of the appellant. It remains undisputed that the project is already in existence and there is no continuing grievance against its functioning as far as environmental norms are concerned. Only grievance raised in the appeal is that the concern of possible impact on marine environment or on mangrove forest be looked into and remedial measures taken. In this regard, we note the following specific conditions in the impugned EC:(...)
"...During the hearing, learned Senior Counsel for the project proponent has assured that the above EC conditions will be duly complied. All due mitigation measures will be taken to ensure safety of the mangroves and the marine environment. It was further stated that the project is outside the Marine National Park. As regards environmental violation during the running of the current project, it is submitted that a notice was issued by the State PCB making following allegations:(...) ...The project proponent, however, dealt with the matter by its reply dated 20.09.2019. Currently, there are no violations. If any violations are alleged or pointed out, prompt remedial action will be taken. In view of above, we do not find any ground to interfere with the grant of EC."

On Tuesday, the bench of Justices Chandrachud, Shah and Kohli commented, "There is no application of mind by the NGT that the EC for expansion was not valid in view of the impact on marine biology and mangroves"

"There has been no independent consideration in even a single paragraph!", said the bench.

In view of the same, stating that it is not necessary for the Supreme Court to hear the matter, the bench remanded the appeal to the NGT.

The impugned order was passed by a bench of the NGT headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.

Case Titles: M/S Gujarat Enviro Protection And Infrastructure Haryana (Pvt.) Ltd v. M/S Power Grid Corporation Of India Ltd.

Sanghar Zuber Ismail v. Ministry Of Environment, Forests And Climate Change

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