The Supreme Court has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that the credentials and bona fide of the applicants must be tested before they are permitted to "knock the doors of justice" and seek orders which have far-reaching effect of affecting the employment of thousands of people and stopping investment in the state.

"We would, therefore, only request the learned NGT that, when credentials and bonafides of such litigants are seriously raised and when entertaining the grievance of such litigants, which is likely to adversely affect the rights of many, it should ensure the bonafides and credentials of such litigants", the Bench of Justice B R Gavai and Justice B V Nagarathna said in its Judgment.

Senior Advocates Vikas Singh, P.S. Patwalia, Rana Mukherjee appeared for the State of UP, Senior Advocates V. Giri, Syed Waseem Qadri, V.K. Uniyal, Vinay Navare, V.K. Shukla, Advocates Prerna Singh and Rudraksh Gupta appeared for the Appellants who were granted provisional licenses and Senior Advocates Dhruv Mehta and Brijender Chahar appeared for Respondent No. 1 before the Apex Court.

The Bench made this observation in its judgement upholding the decision of the Uttar Pradesh government to grant provisional licenses for establishing new wood-based industries (WBIs). The Court was dealing with appeals filed against the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal.

The Court said in the case that there is scope to infer that the litigation could be at the behest of the existing WBIs, who wanted to avoid competition and continue to get raw material at a cheaper rate. It said that the litigation might also be stemming at the behest of WBIs in the adjoining Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana where lakhs of tons of timber is exported from Uttar Pradesh.

The Bench noted there is also a scope to infer that it could be in the interest of middlemen who are engaged in exporting timber from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana.

"We find that before a litigant is permitted to knock the doors of justice and seek orders which have far reaching effects of affecting the employment of thousands of persons, stopping investment in the State, prejudicing the interests of the farmers; the credentials and bonafides of the applicants must be tested," the Bench observed.

The bench noted that advocates appearing for some applicants had fairly submitted that apart from the fact that these applicants had previously filed some public interest litigations wherein orders were passed in their favour, they had no other information. The Court set aside the orders passed by the NGT, including the one quashing the March 1, 2019 notice issued by the state for establishing new WBIs.

Cause Title: The State of UP & Ors. Uday Education and Welfare Trust & Anr.

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