Delhi High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Delhi High Court: In a PIL filed seeking to impose a complete ban on flying kites, a Division Bench of Satish Chandra Sharma, CJ and Subramonium Prasad J. clarified that complete ban cannot be granted but the use of Chinese Maanjha can be curbed by strictly adhering to orders and notifications passed by the Government and competent authorities from time to time.

The petition was filed by a practicing Advocate ‘petitioner' seeking issuance of writ in the nature of Mandamus or any other appropriate writ/direction/ order to Union of India ‘respondents' to impose complete ban on flying, making, sale-purchase, storage, transportation of kites and objects used in making and flying of kite. This is due to use of kite flying thread made up of Nylon, Plastic and other Synthetic material commonly known as Chinese Maanjha which has led to a large number of accidents taking place in and around Delhi. A large number of people are getting injured, and not only people, even animals and birds are also becoming victims of Chinese Maanjha.

Counsel for State informed Court regarding a notification dated 10-01-2017 issued by GNCTD which imposes complete ban on use of Chinese Maanjha and other similar material and a Monitoring Committee has also been constituted to look into the matter. The state has ensured strict compliance of the notification before Court.

Further, it was also brought to the attention of the Court that an order dated 10-08-2020 has been passed by National Green Tribunal prohibiting manufacture, sale, storage, purchase and use of thread made of Nylon, synthetic material and/or coated with synthetic substance which is non-biodegradable for kite flying, and the said order of the NGT has been circulated to all authorities and strict compliance of the same is being ensured.

State also submitted that an order dated 18-07-2020 issued by ACP, Sub-Division — Mehrauli in exercise of powers under Section 144 Criminal Procedure Code has been passed in respect of imposing of ban on use of Chinese Maanjha

Thus, the Court noted that no further orders were required to be passed and further directed the strict compliance of the order passed by the NGT as well as the earlier order passed by the Government on the subject.

[Sanser Pal Singh v. Union of India, WP (C) No. 11592 of 2022, decided on 05-08-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petition- In person

For Respondents- Mr. Chetan Sharma, Additional Solicitor General and Mr. Anil Soni, CGSC with Mr. Amit Gupta, Mr. Rishav Dubey, Mr. Sahaj Garg & Mr. Saurabh Tripathi, Advocates for Respondent No.1/ UOI. Mr. Sameer Vashisht, Additional Standing Counsel with Ms. Sanjana Nangia, Advocate for Respondent No.2/ GNCTD. Mr. Sanjay Lao, Standing Counsel with Ms. Supriya Manan & Mr. Karan Jeet Rai Sharma, Advocates along with Mr. Shankar Banerjee, ACP (Legal Division) and Mr. Vinod Sharma, Inspector (Legal Division), PHQ, Delhi Police, for Respondent No.3/ DP.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

   

National Green Tribunal, New Delhi (NGT):The Coram of Justice K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member) and Dr Satyagopal Korlapati (Expert Member) directed to take action against violators, initiate prosecution, and recover penalties under the respective mining rules for illegal beach sand mining and shrimp farming along the coastal stretches of the Bay of Bengal.

Matter in concern

  • Large scale illegal beach sand mining on the coastal stretch of Bay of Bengal touching the adjoining villages of Pallipalem, Gogunnamatam of Rajole Mandalam, Kesavadasupalem, Chintalamori, Sankaraguptam, Padmatipalem, Turpupalem, Gollapalem, Karavaka, Kesinipally in Malikipuram and Sakhinetipalli mandals of East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh.

  • Shrimp farms (Aqua farms) being operated along the beach without getting any necessary permission or clearances from the respective departments.

Applicant's contention

The Applicant alleged that even after several directions were given by the NGT regarding the regulation of sand mining, but it was not followed by the authorities in the State. It eventually led to illegal mining by unauthorised miscreants, causing heavy loss to the exchequer.

According to the Applicant, representations were made to the authorities but no action was taken.

Relief Claimed

  • Appoint an independent experts committee to assess the loss, damage caused due to illegal beach sand mining,

  • Direct the respondents No. 1,4,7,9 and District Collector of East Godavari districts to remove all illegal and unauthorized Aqua/fish ponds situated in sea coast/CRZ area,

  • Direct the respondents to conduct cumulative study on damage caused due to flooding of sea water into agriculture fields for paying compensation to the victims, farmers,

  • Direct the respondent No.10 to investigate and register cases on the persons caused damage to the environment by conducting massive illegal mechanical sand mining in beaches and submit the status of past FIRs and action taken,

  • Direct respondents to indentify the government officials who have allowed the damage to environment, coast and causing disaster for fixing the responsibility including taking criminal and civil action,

  • Direct respondents to assess the damage caused due to disaster occur on 25.05.2020 in the form of sea water entering through drains into fertile agriculture lands,

  • Direct respondents to restore the beach park at Beach nagar, Chintalamori and recover the loss/environment compensation from the persons responsible for occupation and damage,

  • Direct respondents to setup Locks for the Sankaraguptam drain at Chintalamori and other drains in East Godavari district to stop entering sea water into villages and agriculture fields.

Tribunal's Take

Expressing displeasure on the part of the State machinery on their failure regarding various directions issued by the Supreme Court, High Courts and the National Green Tribunal on sand mining in the State, the Tribunal appointed a Joint Committee to inspect the places along the sea coast in East Godavari District and ascertain the genuineness of the allegations and submit report if there is any violation is found. The Committee was also directed to ascertain the allegations of encroachment into beach area by the aqua farms and whether any agricultural land had been converted for the purpose of conducting aqua farms in that area.

The Joint Committee consists of —

  1. a Senior Scientist from Regional Office of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC), Chennai,

  2. a Senior Scientist from the Regional Office of Central Pollution Control Board, Chennai,

  3. a Senior Officer from the Andhra Pradesh State Coastal Zone Management Authority,

  4. a Scientist nominated by National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (MoEF), Anna University, Chennai,

  5. a Senior Officer from Andhra Pradesh State Pollution Control Board and

  6. the District Collector of East Godavari District

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Regional Office, Chennai was designated as nodal agency for co-ordination and for providing necessary logistics.

The Joint Committee has inspected the various areas and submitted a detailed report on the violations of and action to be taken by Department of Mines and Geology, State Mineral Development Corporation and District Collectors, Coastal Aquaculture Authority and State Fisheries Department.

Taking the report in account, the Tribunal directed Department of Mines and Geology, APSPCB, State Coastal Zone Authority, and the district collectors of respective districts to take action against violators which included removal of those units, disconnection of electricity, imposing environmental compensation as per law and initiating prosecution.

[Venkatapathi Raja Yenumula v. Union of India, Original Application No. 91/2020(SZ), dated 18-07-2022]

SC Illegal Coal Mining
Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case concerning illegal coal mining in the State of Meghalaya, the Vacation Bench comprising Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala, JJ., stayed directions of the Meghalaya High Court directing the dismantling of existing coke plant(s).

However, the Court ordered that the plant(s) shall not operate during the period of stay.

Taking note of widespread activities of illegal coal mining in the State, the Meghalaya High Court had appointed Justice B.P. Katakey for the purpose of ascertaining the extent to which the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT have been complied with and also, to make recommendations regarding measures to be taken to comply with the outstanding directions, including the sale of coal now available, under the aegis of Coal India Limited.

Noticeably, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had earlier constituted a committee headed by Justice Katakey to look into the issue of illegal mining in the State of Meghalaya. Pursuant to the recommendations made by the NGT, the Supreme Court issued detailed directions to the State in State of Meghalaya v. All Dimasa Students Union, (2019) 8 SCC 177 which can be accessed here.

Following the directions of the High Court, Justice Katakey submitted his 41 pages report dated 23-05-2022 which revealed that except for notifying the Meghalaya Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2022 on 24-03-2022, “none of the directions issued by the Supreme Court … and the NGT have been complied with by the authorities concerned…”

By the impugned order, the High Court directed that the authorities concerned should get their acts in order and ensure the complete implementation of the directions within four weeks. In particular, the High Court directed that immediate step should be taken to dispose of the previously mined coal so that freshly mined coal cannot be mixed up with the previous coal, giving room for the excuse that the freshly mined coal was also a part of the previously mined coal.

The grievance of the petitioners was that the High Court had not heard them before issuing the directions to dismantle the existing coke plants and prohibiting them from operating/establishing new coke plant(s). The petitioners submitted that there is no requirement in law to obtain an environmental impact assessment to establish a coke plant and that the direction to dismantle the existing coke plant would cause irreversible losses and injury to them.

Considering the grievances of the petitioners, the Court held that the proper recourse for them would be to seek their impleadment in the suo motu proceedings pending before the High Court.

The Court requested the High Court to entertain the impleadment application and hear the petitioners on merits including, for modification of the previous interim orders dated 24-­05-­2022 and the one passed subsequent thereto on 21-06-2022.

Resultantly, the Court stayed the direction for dismantling the coke plant(s), however, the Court added that the plants concerned should not be operational during the period of stay.

[JMK Coke Industry Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Meghalaya, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 783, decided on 27-06-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, Sr. Adv., Mr. Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, Sr. Adv., Mr. S.P. Mahanta, Sr. Adv., Mr. Amarjeet Singh, AOR and Mr. Mewaker Lyngdoh, Advocates, for the Petitioners.


*Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together

Legal RoundUpTribunals/Regulatory Bodies/Commissions Monthly Roundup

Central Information Commission (CIC)


Framework of RTI Act restricts jurisdiction of CIC to provide a ruling on issues pertaining to access/right to information, not venture into merits of case

Neeraj Kumar Gupta (Information Commissioner), decides whether Commission can provide a ruling regarding the merits of a case or redressal of grievance.

Read more, here…

While examining the complaint, can CIC direct disclosure of information under S. 18 of RTI Act?

Neeraj Kumar Gupta (Information Commissioner) addressed a matter wherein it was alleged that the respondent intentionally provided an evasive reply by stating that the information sought was not clear, hence issue of prompt response of CPIO was raised.

Read more, here…


Customs, Excise and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT)


Will compensation paid by an employee to an employer for resigning from service without giving requisite notice, fall under taxable service? 

The Coram of S.K. Mohanty (Judicial Member) and P. Anjani Kumar (Technical Member) reiterated that, any compensation paid by the employee to the employer for resigning from the service without giving the requisite notice, would not be termed as consideration for the contract of employment and as such, would not fall within the preview of taxable service. 

Read more, here…

Cenvat Credit is allowed on Insurance services; Tribunal sets aside penalty and interest

Ramesh Nair (Judicial Member) partly allowed an appeal which raised the question as to whether the appellant was entitled to Cenvat credit in respect of Input Services namely construction services, fee for architectural structural works for factory plant building, group Medi-claim Insurance, Group personal accident insurance, insurance, motor car/vehicle insurance, labour charges for installation, testing & commissioning of components of VRV System (Centrally AC system) in the office building etc.

Read more, here…

Promotional activity for IPL not covered under ‘Business Auxillary Service’; Anil Kumble not liable to pay Service Tax

The Coram of P. Anjani Kumar (Technical Member) and P. Dinesha (Judicial Member) allowed appeals against the order of First Appellate Authority which upheld the demand of service tax by the adjudicating authority.

Read more, here…


Competition Commission of India (CCI)


 Conduct of Zomato and Swiggy, anti-competitive? DG to investigate

The Coram of Ashok Kumar Gupta (Chairperson) and Sangeeta Verma and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi (Members) held that, in the case of both Swiggy and Zomato, prima facie there existed a conflict of interest situation, warranting detailed scrutiny into its impact on the overall competition between the RPs vis-à-vis the private brands/entities which the platforms may be incentivised to favour.

Read more, here…


Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)


Income Tax penalty cannot be invoked without relevant documents substantiating business activities

The Coram of Shamim Yahya, Accountant Member and Narender Kumar Choudhary, Judicial Member, observed that under the Income Tax Act penalty can’t be invoked without relevant documents which substantiate business activities.

Read more, here…

Can mere rejection of the claim by Assessing Officer, make assessee liable for penalty?

Addressing the issue, of whether mere rejection of the claim by an Assessing Officer would ipso facto make assessee liable for the penaltythe Bench of G.S. Pannu (President) and Kul Bharat (Judicial Member) held that it won’t make the assessee liable to a penalty.

Read more, here…

Whether expenditure incurred on replacements of old truck bodies will be treated as revenue expenditure?

The Bench of Sonjoy Sarma (Judicial member) and Rajesh Kumar (Accountant Member) held that the expenditure incurred by the assessee as such on replacement of wooden body of trucks has to be allowed fully against the income of the assessee in the current year.

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Delayed payment of employee’s contribution to EPF/ESIC is not disallowable as amendments to S. 36(1) (va) and S. 43B effected by Finance Act, 2021 were applicable prospectively; appeal allowed

The Coram of Pradip Kumar Kedia (Accountant Member) and Narender Kumar Choudhry (Judicial Member) allowed an appeal which was filed at the instance of the assessee against the order of the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) -XXXVI, New Delhi passed by the Assessing Officer under Section 143(3) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 concerning AY 2013-14. The instant appeal challenged the disallowance of Rs 45,60,061 on account of delayed payment of employee’s contribution towards EPF and ESIC.

Read more, here…

Whether gift received from HUF to any member of HUF is exempt from taxable income?

The Coram of Sanjay Garg (Judicial Member) and Annapurna Gupta (Accountant Member) examined the issue as to the taxability of the amount of gift received by the assessee from his ‘HUF’.

Read more, here…


Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI)


Name and Designation of Officers of IBBI is exempted under S. 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act

“Section 8(1)(j) exempts information which relates to personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless a larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”

Read more, here…


National Green Tribunal (NGT)


Fine of Rs 41.21 Crores imposed on a Government Corporation for excess mining and violation of conditions of Environmental Clearance: NGT issues 10 directions || If no fine, would rule of law be impacted? Read

While imposing a fine of Rs 41.21 crores on Singareni Collieries Company Limited, for violation of environmental clearance conditions and mining excess coal, the Coram of Justice K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member) and Dr Satyagopal Korlapati (Expert Member) expressed that,

“The Government Corporations are expected to be more law abiding and if any leniency or discrimination is shown for committing violation, then it is very difficult to maintain the rule of law, if any violations were committed by other persons. There will not be any moral right for the regulators to take action against others, if similar violations were committed by them.”

Read more, here…


National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)


If a person makes an investment in shares, will he be considered a Consumer under S. 2(1)(d) of Consumer Protection Act? NCDRC elaborates in view of ‘earning livelihood’

Viswanath, Presiding Member, held that the complainant was not investing money in the share market exclusively for earning his livelihood, hence the same was he did not fall under the definition of Consumer.

Read more, here…

[Medical Negligence] Consumer Protection Act should not be a halter round the neck

In an alleged medical negligence casethe Coram of R.K. Agrawal, President and Dr S.M. Kantikar, Member, reiterates that the “Consumer Protection Act should not be a halter round the neck.”

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“Negligence per se may be declared when …”: NCDRC explains in medical negligence case while awarding Rs 25 lakh compensation plus interest

While addressing a medical negligence case, the Coram of Dr S.M. Kantikar (Presiding Member) and Binoy Kumar, Member, observed that, Negligence per se is not a separate cause of action from negligence suits. Negligence per se, however, assumes the duty because of public policy or law.

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Due to burglary, customers lost their valuable articles from bank lockers. Will Bank be liable for deficiency in service?

The Coram of Justice R.K. Agarwal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) expressed that, customer avails of Locker hiring facility is so that they may rest assured that their assets are being properly taken care of, but in the present matter, OP Bank failed to take care of the assets.

Read more, here…

Sudden cancellation of rooms booked for daughter’s marriage 3 months prior on account of maintenance: Is it an acceptable reason? Can consumers claim compensation?

“The memories of marriage ceremonies are lifetime events in the life of bride and bridegroom and their family members to make their moments memorable. In our country, certainly, it is not an easy task for the parents to arrange their daughter’s marriage in a five-star hotel in place like Jaipur or any big cities. All of sudden cancellation of booking about 3 months prior to the date of marriage on account of maintenance is not acceptable reason.”

Read more, here…

After forceps delivery, patient developed 4th degree perineal tear losing chance for normal delivery: Will doctor be liable for medical negligence?

After forceps delivery, a woman lost her control over passing urine and stool due to the negligence of a doctor, the Coram of R.K. Agrawal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) upheld the decision of State Commission with respect to compensation of Rs 8 lakhs.

Read more, here…


National Company Law Tribunal (NCLAT)


Whether Homebuyer’s’ decision as a Class will be binding on every Homebuyer?

The Coram of Justice Ashok Bhushan (Chairperson) and Shreesha Merla (Technical Member) held that decision taken by the class of Homebuyers will be binding on all the homebuyers.

Read more, here…

Once insolvency proceedings are put on Stay, Can resolution professionals still be entitled to fees during Stay?

In a matter with regard to fees of resolution professional, the Coram of Justice Ashok Bhushan (Chairperson) and Shreesha Merla (Technical Member) held that, when proceedings in a matter are put to stay, the resolution professional is not entitled to fees during the stay on insolvency.

Read more, here…

Can territorial jurisdiction of NCLT be decided on basis of a Facility Agreement between parties?

The Coram of Justice Ashok Bhushan (Chairperson) and Shreesha Merla (Technical Member) held that, the territorial jurisdiction of NCLT to decide a case under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 cannot be taken away by the Facility Agreement between the parties.

Read more, here…

Whether fixation of salary of the MD is within the domain of IBC?

“There is no crystallised quantum of amount which can be claimed as salary/remuneration fixed by the Board of Directors as contemplated under Section 196 of the Companies Act, 2013.”

Read more, here…

Article 1 of Limitation Act deals with suits relating to accounts: NCLAT highlights scope of Art. 137 of Limitation Act

The Coram of Justice Ashok Bhushan (Chairperson) and Dr Alok Srivastava (Technical Member) observed that, provisions of the Limitation Act are applicable to proceedings under IBC.

Read more, here…

Jet Airways Resolution Plan’s implementation is subject to the outcome of?

The Coram of Justice Ashok Bhushan (Chairperson) and Shreesha Merla (Technical Member), held that the implementation of the Jet Airways Resolution Plan will be subject to the outcome of appeals filed against the order of National Company Law Tribunal which approved the resolution plan for Jet Airways.

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National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT)


Whether salary during notice period falls within definition of Operational Debt under IBC?

The Coram of H.V. Subba Rao, Judicial Member and Chandra Bhan Singh, Technical Member deliberated on what amounts to a pre-existing dispute.

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Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT)


Insider Trading | SEBI’s restriction on Infosys employees for trading securities lifted by SAT: Read 5 reasons why SAT lifted restrictions

While lifting the restriction of buying or selling any securities, laid down by SEBI on employees of Infosys for allegedly violating the insider trading regulations, the Coram of Justice Tarun Agarwala (Presiding Officer) and Justice M.T. Joshi (Judicial Member) reiterated the settled law that burden of proof is always upon the prosecution, SEBI to prove that he had access to UPSI.

Read more, here…

Once a statute is repealed, will subordinate legislation made under statute ceases to have effect or can it be avoided by a saving clause?

“A statute after its repeal is completely obliterated as it had never been enacted. The effect is to destroy all inchoate rights and all causes of action that may have arisen under the repealed statute.”

Read more, here…

Logix Insolvent? NCLT initiates insolvency proceedings against Logix City Developers

The Coram of Bachu Venkat Balaram Das (Judicial Member) and Narender Kumar Bhola (Technical Member) initiates insolvency proceedings against Logix City Developers due to default in payment.

Read more, here…


Maharashtra Real Estate Appellate Tribunal


If change of promoter is left to wisdom of society, it will create chaos and uncontrollable situation leaving fate of flat purchasers in doldrum

The Coram of Indira Jain J., (Chairperson) and Dr K. Shivaji, Member (A), expressed that, if the change of promoter without following the procedure prescribed under the law is left to the wisdom of society, it will not only render the relevant provisions of revocation of registration redundant but also create chaos and uncontrollable situation leaving the fate of allottees /flat purchasers in doldrum.

Read more, here…

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the Madhya Pradesh High Court Advocates Bar Association and the District Bar Association, both with their registered offices at Jabalpur, had raised a challenge to the vires of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 on various grounds, the bench of KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has held,

A. The National Green Tribunal under Section 14 & 22 of the NGT Act does not oust the High Court’s jurisdiction under Article 226 & 227 as the same is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

B. The remedy of direct appeal to the Supreme Court under Section 22 of the NGT Act is intra vires the Constitution of India.

C. Section 3 of the NGT Act is not a case of excessive delegation of power to the Central Government.

D. The seat of the NGT benches can be located as per exigencies and it is not necessary to locate them in every State. The prayer for relocating the Bhopal NGT to Jabalpur is unmerited and is rejected.

Detailed Analysis

A. Whether the NGT ousts the High Court’s jurisdiction under Sections 14 & 22 of the NGT Act?

Nothing contained in the NGT Act either impliedly or explicitly, ousts the jurisdiction of the High Courts under Article 226 and 227 and the power of judicial review remains intact and unaffected by the NGT Act. The prerogative of writ jurisdiction of High Courts is neither taken away nor it can be ousted, as without any doubt, it is definitely a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The High Court’s exercise their discretion in tandem with the law depending on the facts of each particular case. Since the High Court’s jurisdiction remain unaffected, the first question is answered in the negative, against the petitioners.

B. Whether a seat of the NGT should be in every State? If yes, should they invariably be established at the principal seat of High Court, which in this case would be Jabalpur instead of Bhopal?

It is also worthy of attention that the total disposal by all Benches of the NGT is 2799 cases during 12 months i.e., March, 2021 to February, 2022. The pendency figure for this period is 2237 only. The rate of disposal being higher than the pendency, no major backlog issue is seen before the NGT. The strikingly small 107 cases in the NGT’s Bhopal Bench must also receive our due attention. These data do not provide for a reasonable basis to entertain a prayer for a NGT Bench at Jabalpur or for that matter, an individual NGT Bench in each of those three States.

In such a situation, the location of the Bench to the extent possible, should be convenient and accessible to litigants of all three States. Bhopal is centrally located in relation to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, & Chhattisgarh. Moreover, Bhopal being the capital of Madhya Pradesh, is well connected and accessible without much difficulty.

“This would commend to us that Bhopal is a sound locational choice for the NGT which caters to the litigants from three States.”

Further, the low case load in the Bhopal Bench, do not match with the strident plea of the petitioners to locate the Bench at Jabalpur. If the NGT Benches are set up in all 28 States and 8 union territories as is suggested by the petitioners, the judges and other members in these forums might be left twiddling their thumbs. Accordingly, no basis is seen to allow one NGT bench in every State.

“This is therefore perceived as an attempt by the petitioners (who are practicing lawyers in Jabalpur), to primarily espouse their professional interest. No other rational basis is seen for the Association’s plea for relocation of the NGT Bench to Jabalpur from Bhopal.”

C. Whether the remedy of direct appeal to the Supreme Court from the decisions of the NGT under Section 22 of the NGT Act is ultra vires to the Constitution? Whether an appeal mechanism be provided to the High Courts from the decisions of the NGT?

Even when a direct appeal to the Supreme Court is provided by a statute against the decision of a tribunal, the remedy under Article 226 or 227 before the High Court remains unextinguished. Moreover, the Appeal under Section 22 of the NGT Act, is limited to the grounds under Section 100 of the CPC and the Supreme Court does not function as a regular first appellate Court. Subject to discretion being exercised, the affected litigants can move High Court under Article 226 or 227 and in such cases, a SLP under Article 136 of the Constitution could also be maintained to the Supreme Court from the High Court’s verdict.

“With such choices being available for a party no rational justification is found for striking down Section 22 of the Act which provides for a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.”

On the ground raised by the Petitioners about Supreme Court being inaccessible, the Court observed that it would equally apply to litigants, from all across the country, who have to travel to the Supreme Court, either by way of Article 136 or Article 32 or any other provision. Despite the provision under Article 130 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has no other bench away from Delhi.

“In these circumstances by pleading inaccessibility, the petitioners are also incidentally questioning, the location of the Supreme Court at New Delhi. Such a contention on the face of it would be irrational and not acceptable.”

D. Whether Section 3 of the NGT Act is ultra vires to the Constitution as suffering from the vice of excessive delegation?

The operationalization of the NGT, including the location of its Benches, was closely monitored by the Supreme Court. Further, the Union Government is to specify the ordinary place of sitting of NGT and its territorial jurisdiction under Section 3 of the NGT Act being mindful of the demand for environment litigation within a particular territorial area. The Government is also to be guided by the objects of the Act as also the directions given by the Supreme Court from time to time.

“Since, the Government is acting on the issue with the guidance of this Court, and the Government is obliged to follow the objectives of the NGT Act, adequate safeguards are seen to guide the government. We are therefore of the opinion that Section 3 of the NGT Act is not a case of excessive delegation.”

[Madhya Pradesh High Court Advocates Bar Association v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 639, decided on 18.05.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Hrishikesh Roy


Counsels

For Petitioners: Advocate Siddhartha R. Gupta, the learned counsel for the petitioners.

For UOI: Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati

For State of Madhya Pradesh: Advocate Sunny Choudhary

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Zone, Chennai: While imposing a fine of Rs 41.21 crores on Singareni Collieries Company Limited, for violation of environmental clearance conditions and mining excess coal, the Coram of Justice K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member) and Dr Satyagopal Korlapati (Expert Member) expressed that,

“The Government Corporations are expected to be more law abiding and if any leniency or discrimination is shown for committing violation, then it is very difficult to maintain the rule of law, if any violations were committed by other persons. There will not be any moral right for the regulators to take action against others, if similar violations were committed by them.”

A resident of Telangana filed an application regarding the violation committed by respondent 1 in respect of violation of conditions in the Environmental Clearance (EC) and Consent granted and also pollution caused on account of the operation of the unit.

Allegations

It was alleged that the applicant along with 700 families were living adjacent to the Opencast Coal Mine operated by respondent 1 facing severe air, noise and water pollution besides severe heat due to massive blasting, drilling, and extraction of coal in the Opencast Mine.

Analysis and Decision

Tribunal noted that the grievance of the applicants was that, SCCL, a Government-owned public sector undertaking corporation had conducted their operation without necessary clearances and also in violation of the conditions of the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted and also doing excess mining, causing pollution to the neighbouring water bodies and properties of the residents of the locality both air and sound. Damage was being caused on account of the indiscriminate unscientific manner in which blasting was being done.

In a way it was admitted by the SCCL themselves that they had done excess mining than the permitted quality and when they applied for an expansion of the project, it was treated as a violation case, hence proceedings were initiated by filing a complaint under Section 19 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

The Joint Committee, after conducting the Ambient Air Quality and Vibration Study, found that the Ambient Air Quality and the sound level were within the permissible limit and the pollution control mechanism provided was adequate and that was not causing any dust pollution as claimed by the applicants.

The Joint Committee had come to the conclusion that except for excess mining and also partial cause for damage to the houses on account of the vibration caused during blasting, there was no other violation noted by the Joint Committee. 

It is seen from the report that excess mining was done at the instance of the Government to meet the supply of coal to thermal power stations to meet the power demand. It may be mentioned here that though it is a Government owned corporation, they are not expected to exploit natural resources, as no one including the Government said to be the owners of the natural resources are only the trustees to hold the natural resources to be used in a scientific manner so as to make the natural resources available for the generation to come, applying the “Doctrine of Public Trust”. 

Further, it was noted from the Joint Committee that on account of excess mining, they earned a profit of Rs 588.60 Crores in 11 years and 3% of that amount namely, Rs 17.65 Crores had to be contributed to remediation and including this amount, an amount of Rs 26,67,00,000/- (Rupees Twenty Six Crores and Sixty Seven Lakhs only) was directed to be produced as Bank Guarantee, which they had produced.

Coram directed the Mining Department to calculate the penalty for the excess mining done in view of the Supreme Court directions issued in Common Cause v. Union of India, (2017) 9 SCC 499.

Considering the period of violation, Tribunal opined that instead of 3% (Three percent), 10% (Ten percent) of the profit namely, Rs 58.86 Crore (Rs.588.60 Crore x 10%) can be imposed as compensation for excess mining and deducting Rs.17.65 Crores which was directed to be utilized for remediation purpose, the balance amount of Rs. 41.21 Crores will have to be paid by the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) as compensation for excess mining done by them and this amount will have to be paid to the Telangana State Pollution Control Board within a period of 3 (Three) months.

Telangana State Pollution Control Board was directed to identify the persons whose houses were damaged due to vibration caused on account of blasting and quantify the amount required for repairing the houses.

SCCL was directed to comply with the recommendations of the Joint Committee and also conditions imposed in the Environmental Clearance (EC) already granted and subsequently granted for their combined expansion project, enhancing the capacity to 5 MTPA.

The gist of the Directions

(i) The Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) is directed to pay a compensation of Rs 41.21 Crores [i.e. Rs.58.86 Crores (10% of the profit) – Rs 17.65 Crores (3% of the profit) which was directed to be adjusted towards the remediation plan] within a period of 3 (Three) months with the Telangana State Pollution Control Board and if the amount is not paid within that time, the State Pollution Control Board is directed to take steps to recover the amount from them by requesting the District Collector to initiate revenue recovery proceedings.

(ii) The Mining Department is directed to calculate the penalty payable for the excess mining done in view of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Common Cause V. Union of India (2017) 9 SCC 499, as even at the time when it was treated as a violation case, the project proponent/SCCL has filed an undertaking that they will abide by the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Common Cause’s case cited supra.

(iii) The Telangana State Pollution Control Board in consultation with the District Collector of the concerned area, identify the persons whose houses have been damaged as observed by the Joint Committee partially due to vibration caused on account of blasting during the initial stages and the amount required for repairing the houses will have to quantified and the same will have to be paid to those persons whose houses have been identified as damaged on account of the operation of the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) and this amount will have to be realized from SCCL. The environment compensation amount will have to be utilized for the purpose of preparing a welfare scheme for protecting the welfare and interest of the people who are residing in and around the coal mining area who are likely to be affected by the project activities and also a portion of the out of compensation will have to be utilized for meeting the welfare of the Tribal settlement, if any, situated in Khammam District or nearby districts. Mode of welfare scheme etc. will have to be evolved by the Committee appointed by this Tribunal for this purpose.

(iv) The preparation of scheme must be in consultation with the Chief Secretary to Government, State of Telangana and the Special Chief Secretary to Government – Department of Environment, Science & Technology and that will have to be jointly implemented by the State Pollution Control Board and the concerned District Collector.

(v) The Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) is directed to comply with the recommendations of the Joint Committee and also conditions imposed in the Environmental Clearance (EC) already granted and subsequently granted for their combined expansion project, enhancing the capacity to 5 MTPA. The expanded project can be permitted to be carried by the project proponent namely, the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) after complying with the direction issued by the MoEF&CC while granting the Environmental Clearance (EC) as violation case and also after depositing the amount as directed by this Tribunal as compensation for excess mining done over and above the permitted quantity mentioned in the Environmental Clearance (EC) earlier granted.

(vi) In order to monitor the implementation of certain CSR Projects said to have been launched by the project proponent, we appoint a Joint Committee under the chairmanship of the Special Chief Secretary to Government, Department of Environment, Science and Technology, State of Telangana with following members (i) a Senior Officer from the Integrated Regional Office, MoEF&CC, Hyderabad, and (ii) the District Collector – Khammam District and they are directed to monitor the compliance of the Environmental Clearance (EC) conditions and also the projects said to have been launched by the SCCL in compliance with the direction issued in the Environment Remediation Plan as well as their CER activities and if they did not comply with the same, the MoEF&CC is directed to take appropriate action for violation of the conditions of the Environmental Clearance (EC) against the SCCL.

(vii) The Telangana State Pollution Control Board is directed to monitor the pollution control mechanism and compliance of conditions in the Environmental Clearance (EC) and Consent granted periodically and if there is any violation found, then they are directed to take appropriate action against the SCCL in accordance with law.

(viii) The Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) is also directed to take all necessary precautions to avoid complaints of pollution being caused on account of their operation both air and soil and also control the vibration and sound that is likely to be emanated during blasting operation to avoid complaints from the nearby residents.

(ix) The Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) is also directed to provide necessary greenbelt and also other pollution control mechanism to avoid air and dust pollution being caused. They are also directed not to discharge any trade effluents or liquid waste generated during the operation of their mine and they are directed to strictly implement the ZLD within their unit.

(x) The Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) is also directed to expedite the laying of railway track and complete the same and take steps to transport the coal using railway line instead of road as directed to be complied with within the timeline specified in the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted.

In view of the above directions, the applications were disposed. [Banothu Nandu Nayak v. Singareni Collieries Company Ltd., 2022 SCC OnLine NGT 127, decided on 6-5-2022]


Advocates before the Tribunal:

O.A. No.174/2020 (SZ):

For Applicant(s): Mr. Sravan Kumar.

For Respondent(s): Mr. A. Sanjeev Kumar, Spl. Govt. Pleader for R1. Mrs. Me. Saraswathy for R2.

Mr. T. Sai Krishnan for R3.

Mrs. H. Yasmeen Ali for R4 & R5.

O.A. No.20/2021 (SZ):

For Applicant(s): Mr. Sravan Kumar.

For Respondent(s):

Mrs. Me. Saraswathy for R1.
Mr. T. Sai Krishnan for R2.
Mr. A. Sanjeev Kumar, Spl. Govt. Pleader for R3

Legal RoundUpTribunals/Regulatory Bodies/Commissions Monthly Roundup

18 Reports to Read


Competition Commission of India (CCI)


Star India providing bouquet of channels at lesser prices resulting significant loss in consumer base of Asianet Digital Network: Star India abusing dominance of its position? 

The Coram of Ashok Kumar Gupta (Chairperson) and Sangeeta Verma and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi (Members) noted allegations against Star India for providing a bouquet of channels at lesser prices resulting in denying of market access and also amounting to unfair pricing.

Read full report here…

7 entities indulged in anti-competitive agreement for supply of signages for branches/offices/ATMs of SBI: E-mails exchanged between parties formed basis for manipulation of bidding process

Noting that in respect of cases concerning cartels that are hidden or secret, there is little or no documentary evidence and may be quite fragmentary, Coram of Ashok Kumar Gupta (Chairperson) and Sangeeta Verma and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi (Members)  imposed penalties on 7 entities and signages for bid-rigging activities and cartelization with respect to the supply of signage for branches, offices and ATMs of State Bank of India.

Read full report here…

Forcing buyers to purchase insurance policies?  Even if dealers offer to sell insurance policies to customers, customers may yet have option to buy such policies from alternative channels

The Coram of Ashok Kumar Gupta (Chairperson) and Sangeeta Verma and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi (Members) addressed a matter wherein it was alleged that certain Car Companies were abusing their dominant position and denying the cashless claim to consumers if the insurance policy had not been obtained through them, their dealers or their insurance broking companies.

Read full report here…


Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT)


Amount deposited during the investigation, ipso facto, becomes pre-deposit when the assessee carries the dispute before the Appellate Forum

Anil Choudhary (Judicial Member) dismissed applications filed by the Revenue pertaining to rectification of mistakes.

Read full report here…


Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)


Notice issued against a dead person is null and void and all consequent proceedings/orders being equally tainted are liable to be set aside

The Coram of Amit Shukla (Judicial Member) and Pradip Kumar Kedia (Accountant Member) allowed an appeal against a revisional order passed under Section 263 of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Read full report here…

Does Income Tax Act prohibit HRA Exemption On Rent Paid To Wife?

An appeal was filed by the assessee against the order of CIT(A)-21, New Delhi dated 21-01-2019 before the bench comprising of Sh. A. D. Jain (Vice-President) and Dr. B. R. R. Kumar (Accountant Member).

Read full report here…


National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)


When a Statute provides for a particular period of limitation, it has to be scrupulously applied, as an unlimited limitation leads to a sense of uncertainty

The Coram of Justice R.K. Agrawal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) expressed that, when a Statute provides for a particular period of limitation, it has to be scrupulously applied, as an unlimited limitation leads to a sense of uncertainty.

Read full report here…

Will Tax deducted at source be attracted on compensation awarded under Consumer Protection Act “in the form of simple interest”?

The Coram of Dinesh Singh (Presiding Member) and Justice Karuna Nand Bajpayee (Member) expressed that in the ‘service’ of ‘housing construction’, if, in a particular case, “compensation” is computed “by way of interest” on the deposited amount it shall not be differently treated than the other cases in which the term “interest” may not at all be used in computing the compensation.

Read full report here…

If a person conceals facts about pre-existing fatal disease at the time of taking insurance, would it be a breach of insurance contract?

The Coram of Dinesh Singh (Presiding Member) and Karuna Nand Bajpayee (Member) upheld the decision of the District Commission with respect to concealment of pre-existing fatal diseases at the time of taking insurance.

Read full report here…

Consensus between dentists and patients essential to standardize treatment plans and methods: No X-ray conducted prior to performing root canal treatment: Read how NCDRC found dentist negligent

Expressing that, the consensus between the dentists and patients is essential to standardize treatment plans and methods, Coram of Justice R.K. Agrawal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) addressed a case of dental negligence and remarked that,

“The teeth are only part of the face and it cannot be simply concluded that the whole face will become more beautiful once the teeth become neat.”

Read full report here…


National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT)


Whether Shareholders have the right to remove Directors of a company? NCLT explains in light of Companies Act, 2013

Expressing that the management of business affairs in a company is not a sole duty of a Director, the results of a company’s performance is a team of work of Board of Directors, the Coram of Ashok Kumar Borah, Judicial Member and Shyam Babu Gautam, Technical Member, held that, Companies Act gives shareholders the right to remove the Directors of the company.

Read full report here…

National Company Law Tribunal orders insolvency proceedings against Supertech: Indebted and defaulted repayment of loan

The Coram of P.N. Prasad, Judicial Member and Rahul Bhatnagar, Technical Member, declared insolvency proceedings against the builder Supertech Limited.

Read full report here…

Logix Insolvent? NCLT initiates insolvency proceedings against Logix City Developers

The Coram of Bachu Venkat Balaram Das (Judicial Member) and Narender Kumar Bhola (Technical Member) initiates insolvency proceedings against Logix City Developers due to default in payment.

Read full report here…


National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT)


Reduction of Capital’ is a ‘Domestic Affair’ of a particular company in which, ordinary, a Tribunal will not interfere because of the reason that it is a ‘majority decision’ which prevails

“A ‘special resolution’ is required to determine those matters for which the Act requires a ‘special resolution’ and except these matters in all other situations an ‘Ordinary Resolution’ is to be passed.”

Read full report here…


National Green Tribunal (NGT)


Unregulated tourism activities resulting in damage to environment in eco-sensitive Himalayan States of India: NGT takes suo motu cognizance

The Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sudhir Agarwal (Judicial Member), Prof. A. Senthil Vel (Expert Member) and Dr Vijay Kulkarni (Expert Member) took suo moto cognizance based on media report highlighting the damage to the environment in eco-sensitive Himalayan States of India due to unregulated tourism.

Read full report here…


Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI)


Can SEBI proceed against a Chartered Accountant for lack of due diligence? SAT analyses

The Coram of Justice Tarun Agarwala (Presiding Officer) and Justice M.T. Joshi (Judicial Member) while addressing a matter whether a Chartered Accountant could be held guilty by SEBI for lack of due diligence, held that,

Lack of due diligence can only lead to professional negligence which would amount to a misconduct which could be taken up only by ICAI.


Uttar Pradesh Real Estate Appellate Tribunal


Developer issued two allotment letters, increasing cost of a unit in second by correcting taxes, lease rent and advance maintenance charges: Read whether UPRERA finds it to be illegal

The Division Bench of Justice Dr D.K. Arora (Chairman) and Rajiv Misra (Administrative Member) set aside the decision of the Regulatory Authority and held that the developer did not conceal the details of the project including the status of the same.

Read full report here…


West Bengal Taxation Tribunal


Can States levy ‘Entry Tax’?

The Coram of Justice Malay Marut Banerjee (Chairman) and Suranjan Kundu (Judicial Member) and Chanchalmal Bachhawat (Technical Member), expressed that, Article 304(a) frowns upon discrimination (of a hostile nature in the protectionist sense) and not on mere differentiation.

Read full report here…

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal, New Delhi (NGT): The Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sudhir Agarwal (Judicial Member), Prof. A. Senthil Vel (Expert Member) and Dr Vijay Kulkarni (Expert Member) took suo moto cognizance based on media report highlighting the damage to the environment in eco-sensitive Himalayan States of India due to unregulated tourism.

Damage to the environment in Eco-Sensitive Himalayan States

Present matter was taken up in light of a media report to the effect that there was huge damage to the environment in eco-sensitive Himalayan States of India on account of unregulated tourism activities which needed to be regulated and checked to effectuate the Sustainable Development principle.

It was stated that, while tourism generates huge income and also employment, it also results in the generation of huge waste which is not scientifically handled, resulting in damage to the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas.

Noting the unsatisfactory situation, Tribunal held that remedial action needs to be taken.

Hence, G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, Almora which is tasked with studies of Himalayan region in particular, which includes Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, West Bengal Hills, Meghalaya, Assam Hills, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh to undertake study and to update any study already conducted in light of the inputs available in the above media report.

Additionally, the Coram directed that a report in the above regard be provided to the Chief Secretaries of 12 States in the Himalayan region as well as to the Secretary, Environment and Secretary, Tourism, Government of India for further action.

The Secretary, Environment, Government of India shall conduct an online meeting with the Chief Secretaries of 12 States within one month of the receipt of the above-said report to steer preparation of appropriate action plans in all the 12 States, dealing with mitigation measures to offset the adverse impact of tourism activities on the environment.

Compliance to be filed within 6 months. [ News item published in The Hindu dated 27.02.2022 titled “Tourism has brought economic prosperity to the Himalayan region, but the environmental cost has been catastrophic”, In re., 2022 SCC OnLine NGT 87, decided on 9-3-2022]

Legal RoundUpTribunals/Regulatory Bodies/Commissions Monthly Roundup

Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL)


State commission disallows benefit of increase in the tariff based on the change in law provision; Tribunal directs reconsideration

A Coram of R.K. Gauba (Officiating Chairperson) and Sandesh Kumar Sharma (Technical Member) decided on an appeal which was filed by Solar Power Project Developer (“SPD”) assailing order passed by respondent Bihar Electricity Regulatory Commission (“the State Commission”) disallowing the benefit of increase in the tariff based on the change in law provision with respect to increased Operation and Maintenance (O&M) costs of its 10MW solar power generating system.

Read full report here…


Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT)


AFT grants war injury pension to soldier who sustained injuries resulting in disability during Operation Hifazat

The Bench of Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary (Member J) and Vice Admiral HCS Bisht (Member A), granted war injury pension to the ex-serviceman who had sustained injuries resulting in disability during Operation Hifazat.

Read full report here…


Arbitral Tribunal, New Delhi


Arbitral Tribunal finds SJDA at fault; directs to refund bid amount of Rs 84.24 crores to the claimant in New Township Project

“No permission for conversion of land was obtained and, therefore, even if all other conditions were fulfilled, the Claimant-Developer could not have commenced construction activities on the agricultural lands without obtaining conversion of land use.”

Read full report here…


 Competition Commission of India (CCI)


Apple charging a commission of up to 30% on all payments made through its in-app purchase system, is a violation of its dominant position? CCI orders investigation 

“Some consumers may have preference for closed ecosystem like Apple and others may have a preference for open ecosystems like that of Google.” 

Read full report here… 

Why did CCI suspend the Amazon-Future deal? Detailed analysis of CCI order imposing Rs 202 crores penalty on Amazon

“Amazon had misled the Commission to believe, through false statements and material omissions, that the Combination and its purpose were the interest of Amazon in the business of FCPL.”

Read full report here…

Is Google abusing dominant position in news aggregation? CCI gives prima facie findings; discusses Snippets, Mirror Image Websites, Paywall Options, etc.

“Google appears to operate as a gateway between various news publishers on the one hand and news readers on the other. Another alternative for the news publisher is to forgo the traffic generated by Google for them, which would be unfavourable to their revenue generation.”

Read full report here…


 Customs Excise & Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT)


“Obiter dictum” not legally binding as precedent; jurisdictional commissioner cautioned for filing frivolous applications

Suvendu Kumar Pati (Judicial Member) dismissed an appeal which was filed in response to the order passed by this Tribunal for rectification of mistake on the ground that the order to the extent of availment of service of outdoor catering was not proper.

Read full report here…

Jurisdiction for claim of refund filed/initiated to be dealt under the provision Central Excise law and not by the provision of CGST law

Ashok Jindal (Judicial Member) dismissed the application filed by the Revenue (CCE & ST, Panchkula) for ratification of mistake in a final order by the Tribunal which was noticed by the Applicant. The Tribunal dealt with two issues (a) whether to ratify previous order & (b) to deal with the jurisdiction

Read full report here…

Is there any provision under Cenvat Credit Rules, 2004 or Finance Act, 1994 for reversal of CENVAT credit for services provided for which no consideration is received by an assessee? CESTAT analyses

“CENVAT Credit Rules or Finance Act there was no provision for reversal of CENVAT credit for the services provided for which no consideration for service provided was received by an assessee.”

Read full report here…


District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Kolkata


Consumer cannot be forced to pay “service charge” in a restaurant: Consumer Forum finds conduct of restaurant contrary to principles of Consumer Protection Act

“The OPs must have been aware of the guidelines of Fair Trade Practice related to changing of service charge from the consumers by hotels/restaurant issued by Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, inter alia, stipulating that service charge on hotel and restaurant bill is “totally voluntarily” and not mandatory.”

Read full report here…


Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)


If lessee is not actual owner of property, can actual rental expenses be claimed on return of income? ITAT decides

“The assessee-company has merely taken the assets on lease from the owner, and it is accordingly eligible to claim actual rental expenses in the return of income.”

Read full report here… 

Can merely disowning bank accounts exempt assessee from paying tax? Read why ITAT approved addition of Rs 12.81 Crores under S.68 of Income Tax Act

“Merely disowning the bank accounts by the assessee does not lead to the conclusion that the accounts are not maintained by him when there is a direct evidence contrary to the contention of the assessee.”

Read full report here…


 National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)


Homebuyers cannot be expected to wait indefinitely for taking possession: NCDRC allows consumer complaint against Builder, directs refund, imposes costs

Commission dealt with a complaint filed under Section 21 read with Section 2(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 by the complainant in respect of a plot allotted to him promoted by the OP, claiming deficiency of service due to delay in handing over possession of the plot allotted and claiming refund of amount deposited with compensation.

Read full report here… 

Insurer refuses to issue insurance policy as Risk Confirmation letter obtained on concealment of material fact by Insurance Broker: Policy will be vitiated? NCDRC answers

“Section 19 of Contract Act, 1872, provides that when the consent of an agreement is caused by coercion, fraud, or misrepresentation, the agreement is voidable at the option of the party whose consent is so caused.”

Read full report here…

Plastic pieces found in slices of bread, but compensation denied to consumer. Read why NCDRC set aside State Commission’s order of compensation

Ram Surat Maurya (Presiding Member) addressed a matter wherein Britannia was alleged to have pieces of plastic in its bread, but the complainant failed to prove that the bread was manufactured by the said company.

Read full report here…

Minor treated for “Measles” instead of “Stevens-Johnson Syndrome” due to wrong diagnosis and leading to medical negligence: Read detailed report on NCDRC’s decision

“The patient at her young age of 12 years suffered very serious and potentially fatal SJ syndrome. It was the patient’s sheer good luck that she survived in spite of such grossly inappropriate/inadequate treatment at every stage.”

Read full report here…


National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) 


Is it proper for NCLT to record finding regarding default when RP is yet to consider it and submit report? NCLAT discusses Ss. 95, 97, 99 IBC

“…there cannot be any dispute with the statutory scheme as contained in Section 97 that when application is filed by the Resolution Professional under Section 95, the Adjudicating Authority shall direct the Board within seven days of the date of the application to confirm that disciplinary proceedings pending against the Resolution Professional or not and the Board was required within seven days to communicate in writing either confirming the appointment of the Resolution Professional or rejecting the appointment of the Resolution Professional and nominating another Resolution Professional.” 

Read full report here…

Aggrieved with the categorisation as ‘unsecured creditor’, Tribunal secures ‘secured creditor’, having relinquished the security interest

The Coram of Ashok Bhushan J, (Chairperson), and Dr Alok Srivastava (Technical Member) while accepting the appeal and rejecting the claim of the respondent, the Tribunal was of the opinion that the Adjudicating Authority committed an error in rejecting the claim of the appellant to be ‘secured creditor’.

Read full report here…

Is approval with 90% vote of CoC required before allowing withdrawal of CIRP application even where CoC was not yet constituted? NCLAT clarifies law on S. 12-A IBC 

“…when the application is filed prior to the constitution of Committee of Creditors, the requirement of ninety percent vote of Committee of Creditors is not applicable and the Adjudicating Authority has to consider the Application without requiring approval by ninety percent vote of the Committee of Creditors.”

Read full report here…

Dominant position and Predatory Pricing or Win-Win for riders and drivers? NCLAT upholds CCI’s decision

“We do not think that Ola could operate independently of other competitors in the relevant market, and hence it did not enjoy a dominant position in the market.”

Read full report here…

Once Adjudicating Authority approves Resolution Plan, does it still remains a confidential document? Read what NCLAT says

“The category of creditors including the Members of the suspended Board of Directors or the partners of the corporate persons, who are entitled to participate in the meeting of the Committee of Creditors are entitled to receive copies of all documents.”

Read full report here…


 National Green Tribunal (NGT)


Rampant noise pollution, incessant use of horns; a Deplorable state of affairs! NGT finds Rajasthan in contempt of Supreme Court’s order 

While addressing the issue of pressure/air horns and motor vehicles being driven with intolerable sound in Rajasthan, the Bench comprising of Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr. Arun Kumar Verma (Expert Member) found the State of Rajasthan in contempt of the Supreme Court’s order and issued notice to the state government to reply within three weeks.

Read full report here…


Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI)


Twitter, Telegram and the tattered chances-Illicit act of swindlers recommending stock tips on social media; Tribunal acts immediately

“The tips circulated through the Channel create an inducing impact which are then followed by the subscribers and ironically, such stock tips may also prove to be true, if large number of recipients of such tips believe it and collectively act on it. Slowly and gradually, after seeing the price of the said thinly traded scrip actually rising, more and more subscribers start believing in the tips and start acting on it, which further strengthens the belief of such tips being genuine, as large number of individuals end up acting on such tips and by their collective buying actions, convert the deceitful, specious and baseless tips to realty”

Read full report here…

‘Billionaire’ dream turns into dread-Unauthorsied investment advisory amounted to fraud & misrepresentation

S.K. Mohanty, Whole Time Member while affirming an ex-parte interim order of SEBI, was of the view that the activities of the Noticees, Billionaire Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (Sole proprietor Akash Jaiswal) was covered within the definition of “fraud” defined under regulation 2(1)(c) of the PFUTP Regulations, 2003. And therefore was held liable for the violation of provisions of Section 12A (a), (b), (c) of the SEBI Act, 1992, Regulations 3 (b), (c) & (d), 4(1), 4(2)(k) of the SEBI (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices relating to Securities Market) Regulations, 2003 (PFUTP Regulations, 2003).

Read full report here…

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (Central Zone Bench): While addressing the issue of pressure/air horns and motor vehicles being driven with intolerable sound in Rajasthan, the Bench comprising of Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr. Arun Kumar Verma (Expert Member) found the State of Rajasthan in contempt of the Supreme Court’s order and issued notice to the state government to reply within three weeks.

The applicant had approached the Tribunal with a social cause pertaining to failure of the State to ensure effective implementation of laws related to noise pollution. To point out the deplorable state of affairs on the rampant noise pollution in the State which majorly emanates from vehicles either through incessant use of horns and modified exhausts, the applicants had submitted various State recorded data, environmental and motor laws and recent news reports before the Tribunal.

The applicant submitted that as per Rule 3(3) of Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 formed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, respective State Governments are responsible for abatement of noise radiating from vehicular exhausts and horns and to ensure that, Ambient Air Quality Standards, scheduled under the Rules are realized.

Further, the applicant contended, even otherwise State inaction on such crucial issue culminated to contempt of Court as there was non-compliance with the directions of the Supreme Court in Balwant Singh v. Commissioner of Police, (2015) 4 SCC 801, wherein while dealing with the issue of rampant and unchecked noise pollution in the State of Rajasthan, in particular with respect to State capital i.e., Jaipur, the Court had directed compliance of its earlier judgment in, Noise Pollution – Implementation of the Laws for restricting use of loudspeakers and high volume producing sound systems; In re, (2005) 5 SCC 733, wherein State Governments were directed to ensure the following:

  1. Limit noise sources to 10 dB(A) above the ambient noise standards for the area or 75 dB(A), whichever is lower; and
  2. Prohibit use of horn during night (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) in residential areas except in exceptional circumstances; and

iii. Make provision for seizure and confiscation of any noise source creating noise beyond the permissible limits.

The issue had also been addressed by the National Green Tribunal (Principal Bench), in Hardeep Singh v. South Delhi Municipal Corpn., O.A. No. 519/2016 (P.B.), wherein directions were issued to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to devise the scale of compensation on the basis of ‘Polluter Pays’ principle to curb the menace of noise pollution and ensure implementation of the mandate and spirit of Rules. Resultantly, the CPCB had issued a directive that in the event of violation of Rules, imposition of fine of Rs. 10,000/- and seizure of polluting source will be undertaken. Pertinently, a nationwide directive dated 27/04/2021 was also issued to all the State P.C.B. to implement and ensure compliance of ‘Scales of Compensation’ with immediate effect on receipt of the directive.

Relying on the fact that the direction on pan India level had already been issued by Principal Bench of NGT in Hardeep Singh’s case, the found the State in contempt and directed to comply and follow the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, NGT (Principle Bench) as well as by the CPCB for monitoring and controlling the noise pollution. [Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Jaipur v. State of Rajasthan, Original Application No.79 of 2021, decided on 12-01-2022]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the Applicants: Bhaskar Agarwal, Advocate with Tarun Agarwal, Advocate

For Respondent(s): Shoeb Hasan Khan, Advocate with Rohit Sharma, Advocate

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court of India: The Bench of A.M. Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy and C.T. Ravikumar, JJ., considered the question, Whether the National Green Tribunal has the power to exercise Suo Motu jurisdiction in the discharge of its functions under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010?

“NGT, with the distinct role envisaged for it, can hardly afford to remain a mute spectator when no-one knocks its door.”

“…adopt an interpretation which sustains the spirit of public good and not render the environmental watchdog of our country toothless and ineffective.”


Backdrop


NGT took suo motu cognizance of the article titled “Garbage Gangs of Deonar: The Kingpins and Their Multi-Crore Trade” in the online news portal, The Quint.

After the registration of the above-stated case, steps were taken for inspection of the Deonar Dumping Site by the representative of the Central Pollution Control Board, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the District Collector of the area and also the representative of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.

In the above matter, NGT noted that ‘damage to the environment and public health is self-evident’ and ordered MCGM to pay compensation of Rs 5 crores.

This Court while entertaining the Civil Appeal of MCGM, ordered stay on the operation of NGT’s order and thereafter arranged for analogous consideration of cases where common threshold jurisdictional issue arose on NGT’s power to exercise suo motu jurisdiction.

NGT cannot act on its own motion or exercise power of judicial review or act suo motu?

Mukul Rohatgi, Dushyant Dave, Jaideep Gupta, Dhruv Mehta, Atmaram Nadkarni, Krishnan Venugopal, V. Giri, Sajan Poovayya and Sidhartha Dav, Senior Counsel together with E.M.S Anam, Amrita Sharma, S. Thananjayan took the common stand and argued that, NGT being a creature of the statute, the forum cannot assume inherent powers as under Articles 32 and 226 and its domain is circumscribed by the limitations so imposed.

Further, they argued that NGT has an adjudicatory role to decide disputes which necessarily mean the involvement of two or more contesting parties.

Therefore, the NGT by acting suo motu cannot transpose itself to the shoes of one such party.

Stand taken by Amicus Curiae

Senior Counsel Anand Grover, who was appointed as Amicus Curiae acknowledged the role and position under the Act and its wide jurisdiction over environmental matters but he opined that the NGT was incapable of triggering action on its own.

“The NGT cannot act suo motu without someone moving the Forum as otherwise the forum then would be perceived to be judging its own cause.”

— Senior Counsel, Anand Grover

Stand taken by Additional Solicitor General of India

On behalf of Aishwarya Bhati, Additional Solicitor General of India, it was submitted that Suo Motu power is not exercisable by the NGT since the same has not been conferred on the forum under the NGT Act.

ASG added that the tribunal was not vested with suo motu power to take action on its vested with suo motu power to take actions on its own unlike the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

Specific Grounds of Challenge

  • NGT is a creature of the statute and just like other such statutory tribunals, the NGT is also bound within statutory confines.
  • Act is applicable to ‘disputes’ as, necessarily referring to a lis between two parties. The function of Section 14 of the NGT Act is available only to adjudicate upon disputes, as in an adversarial system but not for any other ameliorative, restorative or preventative functions.
  • Lack of general power of Judicial Review. NGT, as a Tribunal with prescribed authority under. Statute does not have any general power of judicial review. Hence, it is not within the category of writ courts as under Articles 226 and 32 of the Constitution of India.

Crux of the Court’s Discussion

Superior Courts exercising discretionary powers under Article 32 and Article 226, to safeguard fundamental rights, can venture into judicial review. But such power not being expressly conferred on the NGT would suggest the limited nature of the Forum’s powers, which would exclude any suo motu exercise.

Power of Moulding relief

“Unlike Civil Courts which cannot travel beyond the relief sought by the parties, the NGT is conferred with power of moulding any relief.”

Provisions show that the NGT is vested with the widest power to appropriate relief as may be justified in the facts and circumstances of the case, even though such relief may not be specifically prayed for by the parties.

Non-Adjudicatory Roles of NGT

Parliament intended to confer wide jurisdiction on the NGT so that it can deal with the multitude of issues relating to the environment which were being dealt with by the High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution or by the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.

NGT is not just an adjudicatory body but has to perform wider functions in the nature of prevention, remedy and amelioration.

Even in the absence of harm inflicted by human agency, in a situation of a natural calamity, the Tribunal will be required to devise a plan for alleviating damage.

In the Supreme Court decision of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan v. Union of India, (2012) 8 SCC 326, Court mandated transfer of all cases concerning the statutes mentioned in Schedule I of the NGT Act to the specialized forum as otherwise there can be conflicts with the High Courts. Notably, some of those cases were originally registered suo motu by the Courts.

Detailed Analysis | Exercise of Suo Motu Power by NGT


Supreme Court expressed that the Supreme Court and High Courts can foray into any issues under their constitutional mandate but the NGT cannot naturally travel beyond its environmental domain in reference to the scheduled enactments.

As long as the sphere of action is not breached, the NGT’s powers must be understood to be of the widest amplitude.

 The purpose of constituting the special court to deal with environmental issues was explained in the Supreme Court decision of Mantri Techzone (P) Ltd. v. Forward Foundation, (2019) 18 SCC 494, Court expressed that the Tribunal had special jurisdiction for enforcement of environmental rights.

Exposition in Rajeev Suri v. DDA, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 7, was not to constrict the suo motu powers of the NGT. In this matter, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar observed that,

“NGT is not a plenary body with inherent powers to address concerns of a residuary character. It is a statutory body with limited mandate over environmental matters as and when they arise for its consideration. In a cause before it, NGT cannot directly go on to adjudicate on concerns of violation of fundamental rights and once the contours of a subject matter traverse the scope of appeal from a grant of EC, the merits review by tribunal cannot traverse beyond the scope of jurisdiction vested in it by the statute.”

 Thus, in Court’s opinion, the ratio in the above matter will not clash with the view propounded here as the exposition was not to allow any inherent power of residuary character for the NGT.

In Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board v. Prof. M. V. Nayudu (Retd.), (1999) 2 SCC 718, the need for an expert body with extensive functions and the sources of inspiration behind it was articulated.  

Uniqueness of NGT vis-à-vis other Tribunals

Court observed that the forum has a duty to do justice while exercising “wide range of jurisdiction: and the “wide range of powers”, given to it by the statute.

Sui Generis Role of NGT

Bench observed that NGT was conceived as a specialized forum not only as a like substitute for a civil court but more importantly to take over all the environment-related cases from the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Many of those cases transferred to the NGT, emanated in the superior courts and it would be appropriate thus to assume that similar power to initiate suo motu proceedings should also be available with the NGT.

Authority with Self-Activating Capability

Given the multifarious role envisaged for the NGT and the purposive interpretation which ought to be given to the statutory provisions, it would be fitting to regard the NGT as having the mechanism to set in motion all necessary functions within its domain and this, as would follow from the discussion below, should necessarily clothe it with the authority to take suo motu cognizance of matters, for effective discharge of its mandate.

NGT is not required to be triggered into action by an aggrieved or interested party alone.

Court stated that the exercise of power by the NGT is not circumscribed by receipt of application.

When substantial questions relating to the environment arise and the issue is civil in nature and those relate to the enactments in Schedule I of the Act, the NGT even in the absence of an application, can self-ignite action either towards amelioration or towards prevention of harm.

Bench found merit in the arguments that Section 14(1) exists as a standalone feature, not constricted by an operational mechanism of the subsequent subsections.

To be effective in its domain, we need to ascribe to the NGT a public responsibility to initiate action when required, to protect the substantive right of a clean environment and the procedural law should not be obstructive in its application.

Precautionary Principle

  • Tribunal is itself required to carry out preventive and protective measures, as well as hold governmental and private authorities accountable for failing to uphold environmental interests.

“A narrow interpretation for NGT’s powers should be eschewed to adopt one which allows for full flow of the forum’s power within the environmental domain.”

Conclusion


NGT must be seen as a sui generis institution and not unus multorum, and its special and exclusive role to foster public interest in the area of environmental domain delineated in the enactment of 2010 must necessarily receive legal recognition of this Court.

Long term and very often irreparable environmental damage which are expected to be arrested by the NGT, urge this Court to advert to what is termed as the ‘Seventh Generation’ sustainability principle, or the ‘Great Law of the Iroquois’ which requires all decision making to withstand for the benefit of seven generations down the line.

It is vital for the wellbeing of the nation and its people, to have a flexible mechanism to address all issues pertaining to environmental damage and resultant climate change so that we can leave behind a better environmental legacy, for our children, and the generations thereafter.

Reasoning out the Primary Question:

Supreme Court also observed that,

In circumstances where adverse environmental impact may be egregious, but the community affected is unable to effectively get the machinery into action, a forum created specifically to address such concerns should surely be expected to move with expediency, and of its own accord.

Bench while making the above observations added that,

The hands-off mode for the NGT, when faced with exigencies requiring immediate and effective response, would debilitate the forum from discharging its responsibility and this must be ruled out in the interest of justice.

Expressing further, the Court stated that, it would be procedural hairsplitting to argue (as it has been) that the NGT could act upon a letter being written to it, but learning about an environmental exigency through any other means cannot trigger the NGT into action.

The exercise of suo motu jurisdiction does not mean eschewing with the principles of natural justice and fair play. The party likely to be affected should be afforded due opportunity to present their side, before suffering adverse orders.

Emphasising further, the Court enunciated that,

Institutions which are often addressing urgent concerns gain little from procedural nitpicking, which are unwarranted in the face of both the statutory spirit and the evolving nature of environmental degradation.

Final Words


NGT is vested with suo motu power in discharge of its functions under the NGT Act. [Municipal Corpn. Of Greater Mumbai v. Ankita Sinha, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 897, decided on 7-10-2021]

Tribunals/Regulatory Bodies/Commissions Monthly Roundup

Here’s a run-through of all the significant decisions covered in the month of July, 2021 under the Section of Tribunals/Commission/Regulatory Bodies.


Appellate Tribunal for Electricity

 

Solar Project

Whether there was bona fide delay in commissioning the solar power project?

“…allowed an appeal which was filed against the Order of Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (Commission) whereby, the Commission has held that the Applicant/Appellant was not entitled to extension of time for commissioning of solar power project in terms of the Power Purchase Agreement and Supplementary power Purchase Agreement.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3jbKtvP


Armed Forces Tribunal

War Injury Pension

Tribunal grants war injury pension to WW-2 soldier who suffered splinter wound injury in Italy

“…war injury pension to World War-2 veteran who suffered splinter wound injury in his right leg”

Read more: https://bit.ly/37cxXXi


Customs Excise & Service Tax Appellate Tribunal

Input Services

Whether distribution of credits on input services attributable to final product on a pro-rata basis proportionate to turnover of each unit between manufacturing plants? Tribunal answers

“…issue involved was that the appeals was whether Parle Biscuits was justified in distributing credits on input services attributable to the final product on a pro-rata basis proportionate to the turnover of each unit between the manufacturing plants of Parle Biscuits and its contract manufacturing units, including Krishna Foods, under Rule 7(d) of the CENVAT Rules.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/2V5CYhG

Convenience Fee

“Convenience fee” charged by PVR for online booking of movie tickets under OIDAR category under S. 65(105) (zh) of Finance Act taxable or not? Tribunal explains

“Issue involved was related to to taxability of “convenience fee” charged by PVR Limited on its customers for online booking of movie tickets under the category of “online information and database access retrieval system” defined under section 65 (75) of the Finance Act and taxable under section 65 (105)(zh) of the Finance Act.” 

Read more: https://bit.ly/3rKRvvg

Principles of Natural Justice

Revenue has miserably failed to discharge its onus; Tribunal finds impugned order opposed to principles of natural justice

https://bit.ly/37a5uB8

CENVAT Credit

Admissibility of the Cenvat Credit in respect of outward GTA; Tribunal allows appeal

https://bit.ly/3xcJKzf


Central Information Commission

Right to Information Act

Can S. 8(1)(d), RTI Act be invoked to deny copy of thesis in view of commercial viability and to protect interests of scholar and his guide?

“…thesis publication of the research scholars cannot be reasonably even brought under any of the suo motu components of disclosure envisaged under Section 4 of the RTI Act, thereby reinforcing the proposition that the protection of Section 8 and 9 exemptions is very much available to the CPIO in the instant case.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3fbpI23


Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

 

Deficiency of Service

Will Camera Manufacturer — Nikon be liable for deficiency of service caused to a consumer who lost all his photographs due to memory card getting corrupted?

“…Nikon was neither the manufacturer, dealer, importer, wholesaler of the Memory Card which got corrupted leading to the loss of the photos.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3fbqg87

Builder-Buyer Dispute

Builder handing over possession of plot with incomplete development beyond agreed time. Is buyer entitled to refund of deposit with interest? Commission decides

“Possession of the plot land booked by the complainant was not handed over within the time agreed to despite the complainant has made the payment to the extent sought from time to time.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/2WJUV6d


National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

Medical Negligence

  • Can Wheelchair injuries be covered under the ambit of medical negligence?

“Wheelchairs are usually thought of a medical device that is meant to help those who are injured or have physical challenges; they can also be a source of injury when not properly used. Most wheelchair injuries that happen in a medical setting due to the negligence of medical staff and such could be easily prevented by a hospital or nursing home.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3fimrOy

  • In case a medical practitioner chooses to follow one procedure instead of another, which turned out to be a failure, Can the said act be negligent?

“…The medical professional is often called upon to adopt a procedure that involves a higher element of risk, but which he honestly believes as providing greater chances of success for the patient rather than a procedure involving lesser risk but higher chances of failure.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3idk4hG


National Company Law Appellate Tribunal

 

Insolvency Proceedings

An Arroyo for OYO | While allowing it to work independently, closed insolvency proceedings; Disallowed external parties to impinge

“We are of the considered view that before Constitution of Committee of Creditors (CoC) mere filing of a ‘Claim’ does not constitute a default per se. It is only on the basis of the ‘Claims’ that the CoC is constituted. In a catena of Judgments, the Supreme Court has reiterated that the prime objective of the Court is not recovery, but revival”.

Read more: https://bit.ly/3rO12BU


National Company Law Tribunal

Personal Guarantor

Personal Guarantor not liable to be prosecuted under S. 95 IBC where corporate debtor concerned is not under corporate insolvency resolution process

https://bit.ly/2Vmxnn0


National Green Tribunal

No Odour control system required to prevent odour from Sewage Treatment Plant. Why? NGT imposes costs on Delhi Jal Board: Why DJB is shirking its responsibility?

Mere spraying of chemical solution and other superficial steps is not effective in installing an effective odour control unit.”

Read more: https://bit.ly/3rMxOTD


National Human Rights Commission

Fr. Stan Swamy | Medical Treatment

  • Ensure every possible medical treatment to imprisoned FR. Stan Swamy as part of life saving measure and protection of his basic human rights: NHRC

https://bit.ly/3yk7ov5

Manual Scavenging

  • Manual scavenging and hazardous cleaning still remain a stinking truth of our nation: NHRC

https://bit.ly/3yi3seb

Post-Poll Violence in West Bengal

  • NHRC refutes allegations in a section of media regarding leakage of report relating to post poll violence in West Bengal

https://bit.ly/3BZMT9h


Securities Exchange Board of India

Fraudulent Scheme

 Manipulation in prices, fraudulent scheme results in debarment-Global Infratech, Directors and 12 other entities ousted from the market

https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2021/07/23/manipulation-in-prices/

Insider Trading

Financial Racket: Kundra, Shetty into murky waters again | Imposes fine for insider trading on Viaan Industries

https://bit.ly/2V0zFZq


 Securities Appellate Tribunal

 

Collective Investment Scheme

Unregistered Collective Investment Scheme violative of S. 12(1)(b) of SEBI Act and Regulations, order to pay 10% p.a. interest on refundable amount not vitiated

https://bit.ly/3j728EJ


Tribunals/Regulatory Bodies/Commissions Monthly Roundup | June 2021

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench, New Delhi: Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan, Justice Brijesh Sethi, Judicial Members and Dr Nagin Nanda, Expert Member, imposed costs of Rs 5 lakh per month as specified on Delhi Jal Board for not installing an effective system to prevent odour from Sewage Treatment Plant.

Issue for Consideration

In the present matter, the crux was the remedial action against the bad Odour from the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), Kondli in Delhi. No satisfactory response in the said matter was received from the Delhi Jal Board.

The matter was last considered on 23-02-2021 and it was found that there was the consistent failure of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) for which the Tribunal was inclined to award heavy cost. However, it was directed that if even by 31-05-2021 compliance was not ensured, the DJB will be liable to pay a cost of Rs 5 lakh per month till compliance.

As per the action report by the DJB on 31-5-2021, it was stated that the DJB commenced Ferric Chloride dosing which resulted in reducing the emissions at outlet thereby reducing the bad odour considerably. Further additional measures were being taken — Primary Thickener-A, Primary Thickener-B and Sludge Balancing Tank near a residential area. 1000 trees have also been planted to create a natural barrier to minimize the bad odour.

Hazardous Gas

Applicant submitted that inhabitants are still forced to inhale the hazardous gas on account of failure of the Delhi Jal Board, since no improvement was found.

Mere spraying of chemical solution and other superficial steps is not effective in installing an effective odour control unit.

 Decision

Coram expressed that, merely dosing of Ferric Chloride, Primary Thickener-A covering, and some plantation can hardly be held to be adequate steps in the matter.

Tribunal held that DJB failed to perform its obligation of preventing odour at the STP and only superficial steps have been to claim that odour has been controlled.

The problem has been persisting since long but plea of pandemic is being taken to justify inaction.

It was noted that contrary to earlier commitment of installing an effective system, now the DJB was stating that the odour was now controlled by spray etc. which in Tribunal’s opinion is difficult to be expected.

Coram stated that

We do not understand why DJB is now shirking its responsibility and taking a contra stand that small steps taken are enough and no odour control system is required. This stand is against public interest and non-compliance of order of this Tribunal. 

Therefore, Delhi Jal Board was directed to pay Rs 5 lakh per month from 1-6-2021 until compliance.

Matter to be listed for further consideration on 28-10-2021. [RWA Society v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine NGT 185, decided on 9-07-2021]


Advocates before the Tribunal:

Respondent: Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni, Senior Advocate, Ms Sakshi Popli, Advocate with Mr S.C. Vashisth, Chief Engineer (SDW)S/E for Delhi Jal Board

Uttarakhand High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ, and Alok Kumar Verma, J., issued directions in relation to a writ filed by Mr Rajiv Bhartari, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Department of Forest.

The Bhartari informed the Court that annually from March till June, the State is prone to forest fires and so far, 52 incidents had occurred ranging from District Nainital to District Champawat to District Udham Singh Nagar. Between October, 2020 till March, 2021, there have been about 852 incidents of forest fires, which have adversely affected 1012 hectares of land. According to him, the Forest Department has a large number of vacancies. The sanctioned strength of Forest Guards is 3650, out of which there is a vacancy of 2098. Thus, there is a vacancy of 65% of the staff. Similarly, there is  82% vacancies in the cadre of Assistant Conservators of Forest. Mr Bhartari further informed that Department had formulated a “Crisis Management Plan”. And despite, the best efforts of the Forest Department to implement the same, due to shortage of funds and due to shortage of staff, the Forest Department was not in a position to implement the plan in toto.

Mr Dushyant Mainali, the proxy counsel for Mr Ankit Shah, the counsel for the petitioner, submitted that despite the stay granted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the said judgment, in the case of Rajiv Dutta v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine NGT 30, the National Green Tribunal had dealt with the phenomena of forest fires in the State of Uttarakhand and issued certain guidelines.

The Court after considering the arguments directed that the guidelines issued by the NGT in Rajiv Dutta v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine NGT 30 should be implemented as expeditiously as possible. The Court further directed,

“(1) The State should ensure that sufficient fund is given to the Forest Department so that the vacancies can be filled up. Therefore, the State, especially the Forest Department, should ensure that sixty-five percent vacancies in the cadre of Forest Guard are eliminated, and all the vacancies are filled-up within a period of six months. Moreover, the eighty-two percent vacancies that exist in the cadre of Assistant Conservator of Forest should equally be filled-up as expeditiously as possible, preferably within a period of six months. Likewise, the vacancies existing in the cadre of Ranger should be filledup as expeditiously as possible, preferably within a period of six months. Moreover, the Forest Department should have the necessary equipments and the physical infrastructure. For, until and unless sufficient manpower and physical infrastructure are not provided to the Forest Department, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the Forest Department, to carry out its functions.”

[In Re, In the matter of, “Protection of Forest Area, Forest Wealth and Wild Life due to devastation from the extensive forest fires in the State of Uttarakhand.” v. State of Uttarakhand, Writ Petition (PIL) No. 68 OF 2018, decided on 07-04-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson and Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice Brijesh Sethi, Judicial Members and Dr Nagin Nanda, Expert Member, addressed an application with regard to illegal mechanical sand mining.

Question for consideration

Remedial action against illegal mechanical sand mining on the river bed of River Yamuna and construction of a temporary bridge with hume pipes at Shamli, Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier, Tribunal in light of the Joint Committee’s report had considered the above-stated issue and had directed remedial action against which the entity carrying on mining approached the Supreme Court by way of appeal. Though Supreme Court had dismissed the said appeal.

Vide an Order dated 28-11-2019, Tribunal noted the remedial action taken by way of levy of compensation and revocation of Environmental Clearance was inadequate.

Vide an Order dated 29-10-2020, compensation for damage to the environment had to be in the light of the cost of restoration with deterrent element and having regard to the financial capacity of the violator. This aspect does not seem to have been considered.

Further, the Bench stated that State PCB and District Magistrate may take further appropriate action. Compensation was recovered for only 48 days, though illegal mining was found for about 5 years, as per the report.

Tribunal noted the legal position with regard to the payment of compensation on polluter pays principle. Compensation is equal to loss caused or suffered.

In Supreme Court’s decision of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1987) 1 SCC 395 it was laid down that the person undertaking hazardous activity was liable for damage caused irrespective of negligence. Compensation has to have relation with the financial worth of the violator so as to be a deterrent.

With regard to compensation for illegal mining, Tribunal dealt with the matter in a recent order dated 26-02-2021 in NGT Bar Association v. Virender Singh (State of Gujarat), OA No. 360 of 2015.

Moving forward, Bench in view of the facts and circumstances of the case expressed that the issue of compensation may be revisited by the joint committee of State PCB and District Magistrate.

Application was disposed of in view of the above-stated reasons. [Sandeep Kharb v. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; 2021 SCC OnLine NGT 137, decided on 07-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Applicant: Mr. Pradeep Dahiya, Advocate for Applicant

Respondent(s): Mr. Amit Tiwari, Advocate for State of UP

Mr. Pradeep Misra, Advocate for UPPCB

Mr. Sanjeev Ralli, Senior Advocate with Mr. Saurabh Rajpal, Advocate. For M/s M.M Traders

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice Brijesh Sethi (Judicial Members) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member), addressed a matter wherein it was alleged that a forest guard was mowed down by mining mafia in Sariska Tiger Reserve.

Proceedings based on News Report in Times of India

The inception of the present proceedings was based on a media report i.e. a news item published in the Times of India on 27-07-2020 under the heading “Forest guard mowed down by ‘mining mafia’ in Sariska”.

Forest home guard was mowed down by a tractor belonging to the suspected mining mafia inside Sariska Tiger Reserve after he attempted to stop them. The guard was rushed to a hospital where he succumbed to injuries.

Further, it was stated that the tractor was seized but the accused was yet to be arrested. It was also added that this was not the first incident, in the past villagers have attacked forest officials.

Due to the menace of frequent attacks in Sariska, unarmed forest guards often struggle to protect the area.

Matter considered in the past

When the matter was considered on 10-08-2020, it was observed that there was failure of oversight regulatory mechanism in enforcing provision of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Sustainable Sand Mining Guidelines, 2020.

In view of the above, a committee was constituted to take further remedial action and to file a report specifically mentioning estimate of illegal mining, number of mines sanctioned in the area and regulatory mechanism to check the illegal mining in the eco-sensitive area.

Analysis & Decision

Tribunal noted that in view of the Supreme Court decision in T.N Godavarman v. UOI, WP No. 2020 of 1995, tribunal by it’s order dated 20-12-2018 in Nityendra Manav v. UOI, had prohibited mining within 10 km of Sariska Tiger Reserve and quashed the Environmental Clearance in question against which appeal was filed before the Tribunal.

Coram in view of the above stated that it is necessary for the authorities to take further remedial measures to enforce the law of land.

Polluter Pays Principle

Further, it was directed that State PCB and District Magistrate, Alwar may take steps to stop operation of mining leases, operating illegally, without requisite consents and also to examine whether the leases for which consents are given are permissible. Tribunal added to its direction to State PCB that it may also recover compensation for damage to the environment by illegal mining activities, following due process on ‘Polluter Pays’ principle.

To study the carrying capacity of the area to sustain the mining activities on ‘Sustainable Development’ principle, the constitution of a joint committee comprising MoEF&CC, CPCB, State PCB, Chief Wildlife Warden, SEIAA, Rajasthan and District Magistrate, Alwar has been directed.

CPCB and State PCB will be the nodal agency for compliance and coordination. and joint Committee may give its report within three months.

Matter to be listed for further consideration on 11-08-2021. [News item published on 27-07-2020 in the local daily named “Times of India” titled “Forest guard mowed down by ‘mining mafia’ in Sariska”,  2021 SCC OnLine NGT 79, decided on 6-04-2021]


Advocates before the tribunal:

Respondent: Ms. Punam Singh, Mr. Kumar Rajesh Singh, Advocates for MoEF & CC

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): Full Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) expressed that:

Conduct of functions must not disturb other citizens right to peaceful and clean environment.

The instant Order was pursuant to the subject of compliance of environmental norms by restaurants/hotels/motels/banquets, etc. in terms of earlier orders of Tribunals.

Vide the Order dated 02-11-2018, Tribunal considered grievance against the violation of environmental norms, including solid waste management, discharge of effluents, illegal ground water extraction, ground water contamination, emission by illegally operating diesel generators, absence of statutory consents under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (‘Water Act’), the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (‘Air Act’) and violation of conditions of consents where such consents are granted, by the restaurants/hotels /motels/banquets in Mahipalpur, Rajokri areas in Delhi. The Tribunal also considered the issue of absence of rainwater harvesting, ground water recharge system, excess noise pollution, illegal parking and encroachments.

Tribunal found violations and directed remedial action.

Mechanism/Guidelines for Control of Pollution and Enforcement of Environment Norms at Individual Establishments and the Area/ Cluster of Restaurants/ Hotels/ Motels/ Banquets etc.:

  1. a)  Individual units to provide necessary facilities for control of air, water & noise pollution, solid waste management, etc as enumerated in the previous sections.
  2. b)  Individual units to take necessary approvals from the concerned authorities as listed below:
  •  Consent to Establish under Air/Water Act
  •  Consent to operate under Air/Water Act
  •  Permission for concerned Authorities in accordance with provisions of Noise Rules
  •  Permission for Ground Water Extraction from concerned Authorities , if required
  •  Building Plan Approval from concerned Authorities
  •  Fire Safety Certificate/NoC from concerned Authorities
  1. c) Local Authorities to ensure provision of adequate common facilities for water pollution, solid waste management, parking etc
  2. d) The State Board to have robust monitoring mechanism to evaluate compliance with norms of such units atleast twice a year. As per NGT Directions, SPCBs/PCCs are required to submit compliance report to CPCB

Bench stated that the recommendations in the report of the CPCB need to be duly implemented by all the States/UTs by adopting the guidelines for control of pollution in marriage halls, banquet halls, party venues etc. along with consent management system, as already directed.

Further, the Tribunal added that ETPs needs to be installed by all the big units, not connected to the sewer lines, apart from ensuring compliance of rainwater harvesting systems, adequate safeguards in operating the kitchen need to be adopted, composting facilities, control of noise levels and providing parking space.

In case the above is not followed, no consent shall be given or renewal even in respect of the establishments already setup.

Bench also expressed that the Consent conditions must require the owner/manager of establishment informing the organizer/user in writing in advance about the conditions applicable for ensuring compliance.

 In view of the above, application was disposed of. [Westend Green farms Society v. Union of India,  2021 SCC OnLine NGT 3, decided on 04-02-2021]

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench, New Delhi: The Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member)declined any relief to the applicant seeking an injunction against the demolition of Dhobi Ghat.

The instant application sought an injunction against the demolition of Dhobi Ghat, Okhla Delhi.

Applicant on an earlier occasion had approached the Delhi High Court by way of WP (C) 8963 of 2020, Muslim Kassar Vikas Sangthan (Reg.) v. Delhi Development Authority, the said petition was disposed of on 12-11-2020, wherein the Court had asked the petitioners to approach the NGT. 

Tribunal found the grievance to be out of the ambit of Sections 14 and 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.

Bench added that jurisdiction of NGT under Sections 14 and 15 can be invoked by a victim of pollution for the restoration of environment or for compensation to the victim, and the said issue is not shown in the instant matter.

Hence, in view of the above application was disposed of. [Muslim Kassar Vikas Sangthan (Regd.) v. Delhi Development Authority, 2020 SCC OnLine NGT 867, decided on 11-12-2020]


Also Read:

Section 14 of the NGT Act:

Tribunal to settle disputes.—(1) The Tribunal shall have the jurisdiction over all civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment), is involved and such question arises out of the implementation of the enactments specified in Schedule I.

(2) The Tribunal shall hear the disputes arising from the questions referred to in sub-section (1) and settle such disputes and pass order thereon.

(3) No application for adjudication of dispute under this section shall be entertained by the Tribunal unless it is made within a period of six months from the date on which the cause of action for such dispute first arose:

Provided that the Tribunal may, if it is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the application within the said period, allow it to be filed within a further period not exceeding sixty days.

Section 15 of the NGT Act:

Reliefcompensation and restitution.—(1) The Tribunal may, by an order, provide,—

(arelief and compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage arising under the enactments specified in the Schedule I (including accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance);

(b) for restitution of property damaged;

(c) for restitution of the environment for such area or areas,

as the Tribunal may think fit.

(2) The relief and compensation and restitution of property and environment referred to in clauses (a), (band (c) of sub-section (1) shall be in addition to the relief paid or payable under the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 (6 of 1991).

(3) No application for grant of any compensation or relief or restitution of property or environment under this section shall be entertained by the Tribunal unless it is made within a period of five years from the date on which the cause for such compensation or relief first arose:

Provided that the Tribunal may, if it is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the application within the said period, allow it to be filed within a further period not exceeding sixty days.

(4) The Tribunal may, having regard to the damage to public health, property and environment, divide the compensation or relief payable under separate heads specified in Schedule II so as to provide compensation or relief to the claimants and for restitution of the damaged property or environment, as it may think fit.

(5) Every claimant of the compensation or relief under this Act shall intimate to the Tribunal about the application filed to, or, as the case may be, compensation or relief received from, any other court or authority.

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Rafting per se does not cause any serious pollution of river or environment.

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar (Chairperson) and M.S. Nambiar (Judicial Member), Dr D.K. Agarwal (Expert Member) and Prof. A.R. Yousuf (Expert Member), allows rafting at Rishikesh but bans camping activity.

Reason for filing the present application

Being aggrieved by the haphazard and unregulated licensing of the river rafting camps operating in river Ganga from Shivpuri to Rishikesh on one hand which is a serious source of pollution of pristine river Ganga on one hand and encroachment and degrading of various areas, on the other hand, the instant application was filed.

The applicant organization has been raising various issues with regard to environmental protection across the country.

Rafting and Camping

In northern India, rafting is commonly exercised on the river Ganges near Rishikesh and the Beas River in Himachal Pradesh. Recent times have witnessed that the said area has been denoted as eco-tourism zone namely Kaudiyala-Tapovan eco-tourism zone where various activities besides rafting and camping have been permitted.

Activities of camping and rafting in a very huge number has caused excessive pressure on the river. On the said sites, either there are no toilet facilities, making people defecate in the open or where they exist they are in the nature of pit disposal.

Causes of Pollution 

During monsoon, the discharge remains to flow into the river, thereby causing pollution and interfering in the river eco-system. The tourists and rafters also throw polythene, wrappers and various kinds of bottles on the sites and on the river bed which ultimately flow into the river. Ganga is also polluted because of high use of detergents, soaps and shampoo.

State Government’s approach is violative of the doctrine of public trust as enunciated by the Supreme Court in the decision of M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath, (1997) 1 SCC 388 and Centre for Environment Law v. Union of India, (2013) 8 SCC 234.

  • Trees have been cut in the process of encroaching upon the forest area for the purpose of campsites and beach camps.
  • Noise and Air Pollution: Rafting campsites are located upstream and rafters are taken to the campsite in diesel vehicles, creating noise and air pollution.
  • Alcohol along with the food is served by the owners, the leftover of which flows into the river causing pollution.
  • Wildlife is being affected due to the above-stated camps and the increase in man-animal conflict.

Hence, on the applicant’s behalf, it was submitted that since rafting camps are a ‘non-forest activity’, therefore it cannot be carried on without clearance from the competent authority under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

Mushrooming of rafting camps cannot be termed as a sustainable development activity or a permissible eco-tourism activity.

Analysis and Decision

Following questions fall for determination of the Tribunal:

  1. Whether the application is barred by limitation in terms of proviso to Section 14 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010?
  2. Whether setting up of temporary camps, particularly in the declared forest area amounts to non-forest activity and requires approval of the Central Government as contemplated in terms of Section 2 of the Conservation Act?
  3. Whether in the facts and circumstances of the present case, permitting the establishment of camps for a major part of the year and year after year amounts to temporary assignment by way of lease or otherwise to a private person of any forest land or portion thereof, in terms of sub-section (iii) of Section 2 of the Conservation Act attracts restriction contemplated under Section 2 of the Conservation Act?
  4. Whether it was permissible for the State of Uttarakhand to cover regulation of forests under the Rules of 2014 which were formed under clause (a) and (b) of sub-section 2 of Section 8 of Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board Act, 2001 (for short ‘Act of 2001’) when the field was already covered under the Central legislation, i.e., the Conservation Act?
  5. Whether eco-tourism in the forest area would squarely fall within the ambit and scope of the provisions of the Conservation Act and the letter dated 28th August, 1998 issued by MoEF is liable to be quashed?
  6. Whether camping site is a purely commercial activity and cannot be permitted in the forest land or on the banks of river Ganga, keeping its impact on the environment in mind and should be barred?
  7. If question no. 6 is answered in the negative, what should be the regulatory regime governing carrying on of such rafting and camping activities?
  8. What is the relevancy for determining the conduct of the State Government, private parties and the incidents of violation reported before the Tribunal?
  9. What directions should be issued by the Tribunal?

Discussion

Whether the application is barred by limitation in terms of proviso to Section 14 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010?

Under Section 14 of the NGT Act, the Tribunal has the jurisdiction to entertain and decide all civil cases where substantial question arises to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment) is involved and such question arising out of the implementation of the enactments specified in Schedule-I of the NGT Act.

The ‘cause of action first arose’ would have to be understood in reference to continuing cause of action, where the cause of action is recurring and is distinct or is a new cause of action.

Rafting and camping is an activity which has been carried on for years now. Rules were framed in 2014 by the State of Uttarakhand under which permission and licenses for rafting and camping respectively are to be granted.

According to the affidavit filed on behalf of the State, it is an annual feature and permission/license are granted from September to June every year. Thus, every year it is a fresh cause of action.

NGT’s larger bench has already stated that when an application is based on recurring cause of action then fresh cause of action would not be hit by the language of Section 14 of the NGT Act and each fresh event would give a fresh acsue of action and consequently the period of limitation of 6 months.

Applicant claims and has rightly invoked Precautionary Principle in terms of Section 20 of the NGT Act. The Precautionary Principle can be safely applied to protect and prevent the environment and ecology.

Tribunal stated that the issue in the present application was in regard to proper regulation of rafting and camping activity to prevent damage, degradation and pollution being caused in relation to the forest area, river bank and river Ganga. Hence, such an action would not be hit by limitation.

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Whether setting up of temporary camps, particularly in the declared forest area amounts to non-forest activity and requires or not approval of the Centre as contemplated in terms of Section 2 of the Conservation Act?

Whether in the facts and circumstances of the present case, permitting establishment of camps for a major part of the year and year after year amounts to temporary assignment by way of lease or otherwise to a private person of any forest land or portion thereof, in terms of Section 2(iii)  of Conservation Act attracts restriction contemplated under Section 2 of the Conservation Act?

In the case of Lafarge Umiam Mining (P). Ltd. v. Union of India, (2011) 7 SCC 338 while referring to Section 2 of the Conservation Act the Supreme Court held that this is how the concept of prior approval from the Central Government comes into picture and thus prior determination of what constitute forest land is required to be done.

The State of Uttarakhand had issued permissions to carry on the non-forest activity in the reserved forest area under the provisions of relevant laws. It had also made a reference to MoEF vide its letter dated 31st July, 1998. This letter was responded by MoEF vide letter dated 24th August, 1998.

MoÉF expressed the view that camps on sandy stretch of river banks for rafting does not fall under the provision of Conservation Act and it is basically an eco tourism activity.

MoEF vide its letter dated 7-10-2014 issued guidelines for diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes or execution of temporary work in the forest land. Vide this letter it clarified that the work which does not involve any tree cutting, is a temporary work and the approval as contemplated under Section 2 of the Conservation Act is not required.

Till 1998 the view of MoEF was that camping should not be permitted in the sandy banks of the river and the forest area. However, the letter dated 28th August, 1998 made some variations.

Tribunal stated that,

“…provisions of Section 2 of the Conservation Act, therefore, must have precedence over any other law for the time being in force in the State of Uttarakhand.”

In the present case, we are primarily concerned with the interpretation of Section 2(ii) and (iii) read with explanation to the section.

Bench observed that ‘Camping Activity’ is an activity which has impacts on environment and ecology and bio-diversity of the river. There are allegations and even records to suggest that number of camping areas have been found to be offending the conditions imposed by the State Government. Cases of breach had been registered against them and in a case even fire-arms were found to be in possession of the visitors coming to these camps.

Further, there are permanent, semi-permanent and temporary structures raised and large scale tenting is done in the river bed. This activity from its nature, substance and actualities extending on the site clearly show that it is a non-forest activity for a non-forest purpose. 

Once it is held that the activity of camping on the forest land or any portion thereof is a non-forest activity and for a non-forest purpose, the provisions of Section 2(ii) of the Conservation Act would be applicable and it would be expected of the State Government to issue permission/order in terms thereof only upon taking approval of the Central Government.

Hence the contention that the said activity is not a non-forest activity could not be accepted.

Whether setting up of rafting camps along the beach of river Ganga and its tributaries qualifies as breaking up of the forest as comprehended under Section 2(ii) of the Conservation Act or not?

The term ‘breaking up’ has to be understood with the object of the Conservation Act in mind.

The instant case cannot be compared to the case of S Jayachandran, Joint Secretary, T.N Greens Movement (supra) rather if the activity of camping is carried on for ten months every year it has certain degree of permanency as understood and digging of the area is carried on. Thus, even according to that judgment, it would be breaking up of the forest area.

Furthermore, this is an act being carried on by the private respondents with the permission of the State and is certainly not an act/purpose of reforestation. Thus, we are unable to accept this contention of the respondent.

Hence for the issues mentioned above, tribunal held that the cases of camping activities in the reserved forest areas are activities which are for non-forest purpose or are non-forest activity in the forest area. These cases would attract the provisions of Section 2(ii) and (iii) of the Conservation Act.

It is obligatory upon the State of Uttarakhand to seek approval at least as a matter of scheme from MoEF and then issue orders/permits in terms of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act.

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  • Whether it was permissible for the State of Uttarakhand to cover regulation of forests under the Rules of 2014 which were formed under clause (a) and (b) Section 8(2) of Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board Act, 2001 when the field was already covered under the Central legislation, i.e., the Conservation Act?
  • Whether eco-tourism in the forest area would squarely fall within the ambit and scope of the provisions of the Conservation Act and the letter dated 28-08-1998 issued by MoEF is liable to be quashed?

Ecotourism is about uniting conservation communities and sustainable travel. It is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people.

Examples of negative environmental impacts of tourism to the protected natural areas have been listed as: overcrowding, environmental stress, trail erosion, deterioration of vegetation, noise pollution, contamination of air, water and land, forest fires, wildlife mortality, health hazard, habitat destruction, deforestation, erosion, ecological changes, behavioral changes of animals, groundwater pollution, scarring of landscape, etc.

The provision which empowers the State Government under the Act of 2001 to grant permission for camping activity in the forest area which is a non-forest activity would be ultra vires the provisions of the Conservation Act.

Tribunal in view of the above stated issues held that the MoEF letter dated 28-08-1998 is liable to be quashed the provisions or rules which deal with the implementation and proposal to grant permits for carrying on of camping activity in the forest area are concerned, they are in conflict with the provision of Section 2 of the Conservation Act and hence are ultra virus and cannot be implemented. It is obligatory upon the State of Uttarakhand at best as a matter of policy to seek prior approval of the Central Government before issuance of any permit for said camping activity.

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What is the relevancy for determining the conduct of the State Government, private parties and the incidents of violation reported before the Tribunal?

Rapid Impact Assessment Report was not found worthy of acceptance by the State of Uttarakhand according to the Inter- Departmental Meeting of the State of Uttarakhand. The said meeting was held as a one day affair in which the team had gone in the river through the motor boat which was not permissible and they had no fair opportunity to examine the sites and offer fair comments. The said contention was not accepted by the tribunal.

The above-stated were verifiable facts and whether the State Government wanted to accept the report or not was a matter, exclusively in the domain of the State Government. But to treat it as an irrelevant document was certainly a mistake, the State Government ought to have considered the report objectively and taken its decision while granting permissions so as to ensure that there was no degradation of environment, biodiversity, ecosystem and particularly the forest area.

Hence, it was observed that the conduct of the State and the private parties are of relevancy in determining the main issue. The Rapid Assessment Report would provide an insight into the working of these camp sites. Undisputedly, there are violations committed by the management as well as the guests at the camp sites.

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  • Whether camping site is a pure commercial activity and cannot be permitted in the forest land or on the banks of river Ganga, keeping its impact on environment in mind and should be barred?
  • If question no. 6 is answered in the negative, what should be the regulatory regime governing carrying on of such rafting and camping activities?

It is clear that this eco-tourism activity is completely a commercial activity intended to provide financial benefit to the State and provide employment to the people of the area.

It is true that rafting does not have any adverse impacts on the environment, ecology and river per se but carrying on of camping activity in the forest area does have substantial impacts.

Bench observed that despite the fact that eco-tourism is a commercial activity still it could be permitted, but subject to a strict regulatory regime and its enforcement without default.

Responsibility lies upon the State to protect its environment, forest and rivers.

Camping activity does cause contamination of river and ground water particularly when the activity is not carried on strictly in terms of the regulatory regime in force.

Further it was stated that the camping activity cannot be permitted as a primary activity as it has been there for continued period of 5 years. It is a matter of common knowledge that a person who wish to make investment for a period of 5 years would be having some reluctance not to raise structure of atleast some permanence to give greater comfort, convenience and service to its visitors, though at the cost of adverse impacts upon environment, ecology, river and wildlife.

Thus, it is absolutely essential that a proper stringent Regulatory Regime is placed on record so that such activity can be permitted to continue longer.

Tribunal also noted that the Ganga river from Gaumukh to Rishikesh which few years back was a river of pristine and without any pollution today, because of various factors, of which camping is one, has altered water quality, therefore it is absolutely necessary that a High Powered Committee is constituted.

There has to be very serious supervision with physical inspections at regular intervals by team of high officers of the Forest Department of Uttarakhand and Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board.

there would be no camping or camping site in the mid of the river or river bed and anywhere within the area which is less than 100 meters measured from the middle of the river upto 2 km beyond boundary of the Rishikesh upstream and not less than 200 meters measured from middle of the river there onwards till boundary of Haridwar downstream.

The concept of ‘Back to Nature’ ought not to be used for developing revenue at the cost of Environment and Ecology.


Directions:

Tribunal passed the following directions in view of the above discussion:

  • No camping activity shall be carried out in the entire belt of Kaudiyala to Rishikesh and the Government would abide by its statement made before the Tribunal on 31st March, 2015. Rafting activity is permitted to be carried with immediate effect.
  • A committee of officers is constituted not below te rand of a Joint Secretary from the Ministry of Environment and Forests and along with a specialist in this from the Ministry.
  • The Rapid Impact Assessment Report shall be treated as a relevant document and the Committee would conduct or get conducted a further survey to satisfy itself.
  • Committee shall consider all aspects of Environment, Wildlife, River and Biodiversity while preparing the relevant regulatory regime.
  • Committee shall give recommendation for all preventive and curative measures and steps that should be taken for ensuring least disturbance to wildlife and least impact on the environment and ecology.
  • After preparation of this report which should be prepared within 3 weeks from the pronouncement of this Judgement, the State of Uttarakhand through Secretary, Forests would submit a Comprehensive Management Plan cum proposal for approval to MoEF. MoEF would consider the same in accordance with law and accord its approval in terms of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act.
  • Committee shall ensure that it not only identifies the sites which can be appropriately used for camping activity but also the manner and methodology in which such sites should be put to use for carrying on of these activities.
  • After grant of approval, the State of Uttarakhand shall issue an order under Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act and give permits in terms of its policy.
  • In terms of revenue and technical aspects, the State is free to take its decisions.
  • Tribunal further directs that if the Committee is of the opinion that rafting stations and number of rafting shafts to be permitted should be more than camp sites, it may so recommend but then, those rafting stations shall be used for very limited purposes of picking up and dropping the visitors without any other infrastructure.
  • local persons should be provided with maximum chances of employment or other financial gains resulting from this Eco-Tourism.
  • Complete prohibition on use of any plastic in the entire belt covered under the present judgement.
  • It shall be obligatory upon every person to whom permit/license for camping is granted by the State to collect the Municipal Solid Waste or all other wastes from the camping site at its own cost and ensure their transport to the identified sites for dumping.
  • No structure of any kind would be permitted to be raised, temporary, semi-permanent or permanent. We make it clear that making of the cemented platforms or bricked walls would not be permitted within the limits aforestated.
  • Committee also has to make this Report in relation to source, quantum of Water and source of Power needed keeping in view the camping activity.

[Social Action for Forest and Environment (Safe) v. Union of India,  2015 SCC OnLine NGT 843, decided on 10-12-2015]

NGT
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): Full Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member), Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Members) addressed a matter wherein violation of Air and Water Act has been stated and ground for polluted environment is the lack of funds with the local body.

In the present application, the grievance was with regard to the violation of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 in a village in Himachal Pradesh on account of failure to handle waste which is being burnt causing air pollution, resulting in diseases, loss of livestock and contributing to forest fires and loss of wildlife.

Increase in monkeys, feral dogs and scavengers namely crows, vultures, etc. have also been noticed. Further, the Dumpsite in hilly terrain has been overflowing and contaminating water body, which is a source of irrigation.

The above-stated deficiencies have been pointed by relying upon the photographs and letters addressed to the authorities.

Deputy Commission and the Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, both had sought a report vide its order dated 14-01-2020.

In the report filed n 13-11-2020 following was stated:

As per the said report, the Joint Inspection Committee had directed the Municipal Council, Hamirpur:- (i) to join the corners of RCC retaining wall with the hill ~ide to avoid spillage of Solid Waste (ii) to provide proper fencing to avoid entry of stray animals inside the facility (iii) construct storm drain of adequate size to avoid entry of storm water/rain water and (iv) to ensure that no fire incident/forest fire take place in the solid waste processing facility. Being a nodal agency, State Board also issued directions vide office letter dated 14/02/2020 to Municipal Council, Hamirpur to comply with the recommendations of the Joint Inspection committee.

It is further submitted that the Joint Inspection Committee was once again requested by the State Board on 17.10.2020 to re-inspect the site to verify whether the recommendations of the said committee have been complied with by M.C. Hamirpur at its Solid Waste Processing Facility. Recently, joint inspection of the site was once again conducted on 10.11.2020, under the Chairmanship of Addl. District Magistrate, Hamirpur alongwith Sub Divisional Magistrate Hamirpur, Environmental Engineer, (HPSPCB, Una), Executive Officer, (Municipal Council Hamirpur), Asstt. Engineer, (Jal Shakti Vibhag, Hamirpur) and Asstt. Environmental Engineer, (HPSPCB, Una).

Bench noted that the deficiencies still persist and the reason for the failure to take action on the ground has been lack of funds with the local body.

Tribunal held that the ground of “lack of funds” is not a valid ground as clean environment is a fundamental right for which funds are to arranged by the authorities either by collection from the citizens concerned or otherwise.

In view of the above, Bench directed the Secretary, Urban Development Department, Himachal Pradesh to ensure further remedial action.

Matter has been further listed for consideration on 24-03-2021. [Rita Sharma v. State of H.P., Original Application No. 05 of 2020, decided on 13-11-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

Applicants: Tushar Giri, Advocate

Respondents: Sanjay Kumar, Advocate for HPSPCB