Violation Of Condition For Grant Of Environment Clearance Within Jurisdiction Of NGT - Supreme Court
A two-judge bench of Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant while dealing with an appeal against an order of NGT held that violation of the conditions of Environment Clearance (EC) on which the EC was granted would be under the jurisdiction of NGT under section 14 of National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
In this case, the Ministry of Environment and Forest issued EC to the project of Bhilai Jaypee Cement Limited, one of the Respondents with regards to land measuring 34.59 in Bhilai. The said land was designated as 'green belt' in the 1991 Development plan of Bhilai on 1 May 2008. Later on 3rd February 2011, the State Government issued a notification modifying the land use of the parcel of land from 'green belt' to 'industrial purpose' under Town and Country Planning Act 1973. Further, the notification was published in the Chhattisgarh Gazette on 18 February 2011
Aggrieved by the notification, a Public Interest Litigation was filed before Chhattisgarh High Court to quash the abovementioned notification. Relying upon the decision of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan v Union of India, the High Court referred the matter to NGT on 28 January 2013.
Further, NGT dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the appeal was barred by limitation and it does not have jurisdiction to entertain a challenge to the abovementioned notification of the state government altering the use of land.
The Apex Court relied upon the argument of the Appellant that the EC has been issued in pursuance of the EIA notification, which in turn traces its source of power to the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. The 1986 Act is a statute that is listed at Entry 5 of Schedule I of the NGT Act.
Hence, any breach of the EC by a proposed change of land use can be made the foundation for invoking the remedy before the NGT. Moreover, it was urged that it was open to the Appellant to invoke the jurisdiction under Section 14 of the NGT Act for contending that the change of land use notification dated 18 February 2011 would result in a violation of the EC conditions noted above and this could be remedied before the NGT in the exercise of its original jurisdiction under Section 14.
In this context, Supreme Court relied on the following conditions of the EC:
"ix. As proposed, green belt shall be developed in 4.62 ha (33 %) out of total 14 ha area to reduce impact of fugitive emissions. Central Pollution Control Board guidelines shall be followed in planning and developing green belt and selection of species etc.
x. Other necessary statutory clearances from the concerned Departments including 'No Objection Certificate' from the Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board (CECB) shall be obtained prior to commencement of construction and/or operation."
Accordingly, the Court partly allowed the appeal and remitted the proceedings back to NGT for determining as to whether the challenge to the proposed modification of the land use to "industrial purpose" through the notification dated 3 February 2011 can be entertained within the extended period as prescribed by the proviso to Section 14(3) of the NGT Act.