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HC strikes down MoEF notification transferring Goa cases in NGT from Pune to Delhi

12 Oct 2017 05:50am IST
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12 Oct 2017 05:50am IST

Major victory for greens as NGT jurisdiction remains in Pune; Asks State and MoEF&CC to take up proposal to establish Circuit Bench of NGT in Goa; Order limited to Goa cases as there was no challenge from Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli

Team Herald

 

PANJIM: The High Court of Bombay at Goa on Wednesday quashed and struck down the August 10, 2017 notification of the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Control (MoEF&CC) transferring the jurisdiction of Goa cases from the Western Zone Bench of NGT Pune to the Principal Bench New Delhi.

The High Court passed its order only in regards to Goa while other territories mentioned in the notification have not been looked at as there was no challenge.

“We quash and strike down the notification of August 10, 2017 in so far as it transfers the jurisdiction of the Western Zonal Bench from Pune to New Delhi in regard to the State of Goa. We say nothing about the territories of Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli simply because there is no challenge in that regard before us,” the HC’s order, passed by division bench comprising Justices Gautam Patel and Nutan Sardessai, states.

The Court stated that in view of the judgement, the Western Region Bench will, therefore, now be entitled to proceed with the hearings of cases filed before it. HC by an order on August 21, 2017 had directed that no files be transferred from the Pune bench to New Delhi.

The High Court also said that the State government and MoEF&CC must immediately take up with all seriousness the proposal to establish a Circuit Bench of the NGT in Goa.

“In our experience, one that none can deny, we have seen a very large number of worthy causes. Our duty, and that of every government too, must be to ensure that these attempts to protect the environment can be brought to a forum that is close at hand, where environmental issues can be addressed quickly, without having to travel inordinate distances, and at a cost that the poorest in the land, not just the well-heeled, can afford,” the court said in its order.

The Court further said, “These are, after all, struggles for a better tomorrow. This or that particular cause may be lost. But no cause should be allowed to be lost for want of trying. For that, we have those who petition us. Equally certainly, no cause should be allowed to be lost for want of a court. That is up to us, and to the government. For this is something none can deny: this is a land truly worth fighting for.”

The court order has touched the hearts of Goans by stating that its greatest asset is environment and its ecology, its rivers and riverbanks, its beaches, its lakes and clear streams, its dense forests, its low hills and fertile fields, its boulders and even trees shrouded with moss and vines and lichen in the rains, its ridiculously brilliant sunsets.

“If the NGT in Pune has so very many cases from Goa, it is not because – or not just because – the people of Goa are litigious; if true, that may only speak to their continued faith in the legal system and its processes. It is because they perceive that there is something of value here to protect. Few are frivolous causes; in the past few weeks, we saw none,” the order reads.

The Court further said that many, and perhaps most cases, are of very serious concern, raising vital questions of both public law and environmental governance.

MoEF&CC by a notification had transferred all the cases from Western Region bench of NGT Pune to the Principal Bench New Delhi. Following the strong protest from various sections of the civil society High Court in Goa has taken the matter of sou motu where all the NGOs, activists and lawyers had united to retain the Pune bench for Goan litigants.

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‘THESE ARE AFTER ALL STRUGGLES FOR A BETTER TOMORROW’:  JUSTICES GAUTAM PATEL & NUTAN SARDESAI
Excerpts from the order:
+  Our duty, and that of every government too, must be to ensure that these attempts to protect the environment can be brought to a forum that is close at hand, where environmental issues can be addressed quickly, without having to travel inordinate distances, and at a cost that the poorest in the land, not just the well-heeled, can afford.
+  These are, after all, struggles for a better tomorrow. This or that particular cause may be lost. But no cause should be allowed to be lost for want of trying. For that, we have those who petition us. Equally certainly, no cause should be allowed to be lost for want of a court. That is up to us, and to the government. For this is something none can deny: this is a land truly worth fighting for.
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