Top
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Top Stories

Supreme Court Restores Appeal Before NGT Against Environmental Clearance Granted to Vishakapatnam Greenfield International Airport

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
3 March 2021 3:55 AM GMT
Supreme Court Restores Appeal Before NGT Against Environmental Clearance Granted to Vishakapatnam Greenfield International Airport
x

The Supreme Court, on Monday, set aside an order of National Green Tribunal which dismissed an appeal filed against the grant of environmental clearance for construction of the Greenfield International Airport, Bhogapuram, Vishakapatnam.The NGT, to dismiss the appeal filed by Sridevi Datla, had refused to condone the delay. The delay was sought to be condoned on the ground that the clearance...

Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
599+GST
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?

The Supreme Court, on Monday, set aside an order of National Green Tribunal which dismissed an appeal filed against the grant of environmental clearance for construction of the Greenfield International Airport, Bhogapuram, Vishakapatnam.

The NGT, to dismiss the appeal filed by Sridevi Datla, had refused to condone the delay. The delay was sought to be condoned on the ground that the clearance and related documents were voluminous and the matter required some technical expertise, requiring the papers to be forwarded to experts and lawyers in Delhi, and the inter se communication delay.

The issue considered by the Apex Court bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat was whether the approach to the issue of limitation by the NGT was correct, and whether on a correct interpretation of law, the appeal under Section 16 was filed within the 90 days period, in the facts of this case.

Provisions of the Limitation Act are inapplicable.

The bench agreed with the contention of the Centre that by virtue of Section 33 of the Act, the provisions of all other laws stand overridden and consequently, the question of extending the period of limitation by reference to Section 5 of the Limitation Act would not arise.

"There can be no dispute that the period of limitation set out in a special law, which provides for remedies and appeals, has to be construed in its terms and without reference to the Limitation Act, if it contains specific provisions delineating the time or period within which applications or appeals can be preferred, and confines the consideration of applications for condoning the delay to a specific number of days. Undoubtedly, in such cases, the Limitation Act would be inapplicable. There are several previous judgments of this court holding that where periods of limitation are prescribed under special laws, appeals that exceed the period granted and are within the extended period of limitation in the special law, can be entertained at the discretion of the tribunal, or court concerned and the Limitation Act would not apply upon expiry of such extended period. This court holds that there is merit in the contention of the Union that the provisions of the Limitation Act are inapplicable.", it said.

Section 10 of the General Clauses Act Applicable

The court then proceeded to consider the contention that the appeal is to be considered as having been filed within the extended period of 60 days, since the last (of the 60 days) was a Sunday (12.07.2020). It noticed that Section 10 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 stipulates that when the last date for doing something falls on a public holiday, the act "shall be considered as done.." if it "is done or taken on the next day afterwards on which the Court or office is open".

"This provision applies to all Central Acts enacted after the said Act was brought into force...It is also noticeable that there is no indication in the NGT Act that Section 10 of the General Clauses Act cannot be applied. It is therefore, held that the provision applies proprio vigore to all appeals filed under the NGT Act.", the court added.

'Sufficient Cause'

On the question of "sufficient cause" in terms of Section 16 of the NGT Act, the bench observed thus"

"It is evident that the term sufficient cause is relative, fact dependent, and has many hues, largely deriving colour from the facts of each case, and the behaviour of the litigant who seeks condonation of delay (in approaching the court). However, what can broadly be said to be universally accepted is that in principle, the applicant must display bona fides, should not have been negligent, and the delay occasioned should not be such that condoning it would seriously prejudice the other party."

Allowing the appeal, the bench said that the NGT erred in observing that no sufficient cause was shown by the appellant. It said:

"This court is of the opinion that there is merit in the appellant's argument. The respondents, especially, the project applicant, had urged that the appellant is an interested party, and cannot be called a public-spirited citizen, because she had opposed acquisition of land for the airport and therefore, was able to access legal advice at the High Court stage. There is, in our opinion, nothing in the NGT Act which excludes parties who would be directly affected by a project, that has environmental repercussions, from accessing the tribunal (NGT). Likewise, characterizing the nature of legal advice that can be accessed for challenging land acquisition, as similar to a challenge to environmental clearance which involves application of mind to technical issues in a detailed manner, would be unfair and simplistic. Scientific or technical support – apart from expert professional legal advice is necessary, if the NGT were to be approached. In these circumstances, this court is of the opinion that given the mandate of the NGT Act, the exercise of discretion, as was done in this case, to reject the appeal by dismissing the application for condonation of delay, on the ground that no sufficient cause was shown, was erroneous and based on a narrow reading of the law. An appeal to the NGT in such matters is no ordinary matter; it has the potential of irrevocably changing the environment with the possibility of likely injury. Application of judicial mind by an independent tribunal in such cases, at the first appellate stage, is almost a necessity.", it said.

Case: Sridevi Datla Vs. Union Of India  [CA 3136 OF 2020]
Coram: Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat
Counsel: Sr. Adv Anitha Shenoy, Sr. Adv Mukul Rohatgi, ASG K.M. Natraj
Citation: LL 2021 SC 127


Click here to Read/Download Judgment


Next Story
Share it