National Green Tribunal: The bench of Dinesh Kumar Singh and Dr. Vijay Kulkarni, JJ has agreed to hear the matter relating to National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) jurisdiction to decide if the lease granted to salt industries can be cancelled on the ground of ecological repercussion.
The applicant has alleged that, the environment and ecological concerns have not been taken into consideration by the authorities while granting leases in favor of private respondent which is a chief reason for flooding during monsoon. The applicant has primarily prayed for an order prohibiting any construction of earthen bunds and other structures in CRZ area associated with salt manufacturing during the pendency of the litigation. The applicant has also sought cancellation of leases granted to the salt plants of the private Respondent located in CRZ – IA and CVC in order to cease the violation of CRZ Notification, 2019/2011 and demolish all bunds, blockages, structures, facilities, storages and presence of other salt manufacturing infrastructure.
Whether NGT has jurisdiction to decide as to whether the leases granted to certain salt industries can be cancelled, if it is found that they are having adverse impact on the environment in the area where they have been granted?
The Counsel for the Applicant relied on the Judgement of the Supreme Court in Mantri Techzone Pvt. Ltd v. Forward foundation, (2019) 18 SCC 494., where-in it was observed that the jurisdiction and the wide range of powers of the Tribunal have been provided under Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the Act for restoration of the environment. Section 15(1)(c) of the Act is an entire island of power and jurisdiction read with Section 20 of the Act. Therefore, wherever the environment and ecology are being compromised and jeopardized, the Tribunal can apply Section 20 for taking restorative measures in the interest of the environment.
Further, the NGT Act being a beneficial legislation, the power bestowed upon the Tribunal must be given a broader reading. The existence of the Tribunal without its broad restorative powers under Section 15(1) (c) read with Section 20 of the Act, would render it ineffective and toothless, and shall be try the legislative intent in setting up a specialized Tribunal specifically to address environmental concerns. The Tribunal, specially constituted with judicial members as well as with Experts in the field of environment, has a legal obligation to provide for preventive and restorative measures in the interest of the environment.”
On the other hand, the Counsel on behalf of Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority, submitted that as per the Final Map of the Coastal Management Zone for District of Bhavnagar, Gujarat, the lease granted to Admiral Salt Private Limited and Shriram Seabrime Salt Industries falls outside the Coastal Regulation Zone. As per the Final Map of Coastal Zone Management Plan, major portion of the lease granted to H A Salt Private Limited, J.M. Salt Private Limited and Saline Salt Private Limited falls within the CRZ-1B. Bunding is permitted in CRZ-1B area for salt cultivation. Although, the bunds made by J.M. Salt Private Limited and Saline Salt Private Limited have made bunds prior to grant of CRZ clearance by Coastal Zone Management Authority, which have already been removed with the assistance of local District administration and notices have been issued for action to be taken.
Further, the Counsel also submitted that the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 confers the jurisdiction upon the Tribunal with respect to the Acts mentioned in Schedule – I only. Therefore, as the present case pertains to cancellation of lease which is granted by the State Government, it would not fall under the purview of the Tribunal in the absence of any environmental law prohibiting such grant. Furthermore, the Counsel also raised the question of the application being time barred under Section 14 Sub-Section (3) of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
Taking note of the submissions, NGT has directed the Applicant to place the evidence for the location of the bunds. The matter would be subsequently listed for the examination of the issue of jurisdiction raised by the Counsel of the Respondent.
[Nileshbhai Babubhai Rathod v. Gujarat Pollution Control Board; 2022 SCC OnLine NGT 291, decided on 23.12.2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For Applicant: Ms. Shilpa Chouhan;
For Respondent: Mr. Maulik Nanavati and Mr. Rahul Garg.