The Supreme Court said that the National Green Tribunal's practice of ex-parte orders and imposition of damages amounting to crores of rupees is a counterproductive force in the broader mission of environmental safeguarding.

The Court was dealing with a batch of appeals against the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The two-Judge Bench of Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice Aravind Kumar observed, “The National Green Tribunal's recurrent engagement in unilateral decision making, provisioning ex post facto review hearing and routinely dismissing it has regrettably become a prevailing norm. In its zealous quest for justice, the Tribunal must tread carefully to avoid the oversight of propriety. The practice of ex parte orders and the imposition of damages amounting to crores of rupees, have proven to be a counterproductive force in the broader mission of environmental safeguarding.”

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh represented the appellants while Advocate Avneesh Arputham represented the respondents.

In this case, the main order arose out of an ex parte order in suo motu proceedings holding the appellant-persons to be guilty and directing payment of compensation. The second order was the dismissal of the review petition filed by the second appellant alleging that he had not been given an opportunity before an adverse order was passed against him.

The Supreme Court in the above context noted, “It is evident from the above that the Tribunal itself has noted that notices were not issued to the Project Proponents. The Tribunal, in fact, considers it unnecessary to hear the Project Proponent to verify the facts in issue. The Tribunal thought it appropriate to adopt this method in view of a Joint Inspection Report that had been submitted. The persons who were prejudiced by the order of the Tribunal naturally filed Review Petitions before the Tribunal. Appellant No. 2 is one amongst them. The Review Petition was taken up and dismissed by the Tribunal on 26.11.2021.”

The Court added that significantly, the orders have consistently faced stays from it, resulting in the unravelling of the commendable efforts put forth by the Members, lawyers, and other stakeholders. The Court further said that it is imperative for the Tribunal to infuse a renewed sense of procedural integrity, ensuring that its actions resonate with a harmonious balance between justice and due process and only then can it reclaim its standing as a beacon of environmental protection, where well-intentioned endeavours are not simply washed away.

“It appears that the appellants did not have a full opportunity to contest the matter and place all their defenses before the Tribunal. They filed this appeal and by order dated 04.03.2022, this Court stayed the judgment and order passed by the Tribunal. This was inevitable. Two years have passed by and the stay is still operating. We have no other alternative except to set aside the orders dated 31.08.2021 and 26.11.2021 and remand the matter back to the Tribunal”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeals and directed the NGT to issue notices to all the necessary parties and hear the case.

Cause Title- Veena Gupta & Anr. v. Central Pollution Control Board & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 89)


Appellants: Advocates Ashish Aggarwal, Tanya Aggarwal, AOR Tatini Basu, Advocates Nitipriya Kar, and Subodha Pandey.

Respondents: Advocates Ankit Sharma, AOR Pradeep Misra, Advocates Daleep Dhyani, Suraj Singh, Manoj Kumar Sharma, AOR Praveen Swarup, Advocates Ameet Singh, Devesh Maurya, Ravi Kumar, Payal Swarup, Aman, AOR Rajeev Kumar Bansal, Advocates Vidya Sagar, Rajesh Sonthalia, Amita Agarwal, Shekher Kaushik, Ganesh Barowalia, Vandana Gupta, AOR Rahul Gupta, AOR Deepak Goel, Advocates Archana Preeti Gupta, Harshita Maheshwari, Alka Goyal, Jitendra Bharti.

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