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regular-article-logo Monday, 22 July 2024

NGT subordinate and can’t contradict high courts: SC

Court quashed a Green Tribunal order that had stayed the construction of a resort by the Andhra Pradesh government on the Rushikonda Hills in Visakhapatnam

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 02.06.22, 02:53 AM
Representational photo

Representational photo File photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the National Green Tribunal is subordinate in its jurisdiction to the high courts, which have a constitutional status.

The NGT cannot pass orders contradicting those of the high courts as that would lead to an “anomalous” situation and confuse officials, the apex court added.The bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Hima Kohli quashed an NGT order that had stayed the construction of a resort by the Andhra Pradesh government on the Rushikonda Hills in Visakhapatnam as part of a tourism project despite the state high court allowing the plan.

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The National Green Tribunal and the high court’s contradicting orders would lead to an anomalous situation and authorities would not know which order to follow. In such cases, orders of the constitutional court would prevail over orders of the tribunal,” the bench said.“We’re of the considered view that continuation of proceedings before the NGT for same cause of action of which the high court is seized will not be in the interest of justice. We quash and set aside proceedings before the NGT.”The NGT, created through an act of Parliament in 2010, is tasked with dealing with environmental issues and is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.

The apex court allowed an appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the NGT’s May 6 order that had stayed all construction on the Rushikonda Hills on the basis of a petition from a rebel MP of the ruling YSR Congress, K. Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, alleging violation of environment laws.

Andhra Pradesh High Court had in December 2021 allowed the state to go ahead with the construction.

However, on the basis of Raju’s complaint, the NGT stayed the construction without hearing the state’s views.On Wednesday, the Supreme Court bench directed the state and the MP to air their grievances before the high court, which it said would decide the matter on merit, uninfluenced by any observations from the top court.Justice Gavai, who headed the bench, said construction on the Rushikonda Hills could resume only in the area where a demolished resort once stood until the matter was judicially resolved by the high court.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the state, told the bench there was no illegal construction or violation of environment norms as the construction was carried out only in the permitted area where the now-demolished resort had stood.

Any fresh construction on the 9.88-acre plot of which the resort is a part will be subject to the fate of the case before the high court.Advocate Balaji Srinivasan, appearing for the MP, submitted that rampant construction was under way on the protected hills in violation of high court orders.

The Supreme Court said it failed to understand why the NGT had appointed a second committee to submit a report when the earlier committee had approved the construction of the resort.

Singhvi submitted that when the high court was already seized of the matter, the NGT shouldn’t have entertained the complaint.Justice Gavai said that although the high court had permitted the construction, it should, in view of the serious allegations made by Raju, examine the matter further so as to strike a balance between development and environment issues.

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