In a ruling that will give some relief to Monnet Ispat and Energy, the Supreme Court on Thursday held that it is the Delhi High Court, not the NGT, which is competent to hear the plea against the grant of environmental clearance to the proposed expansion of the company's integrated steel and power plant in Chhattisgarh.
While setting aside the HC order that transferred the case to NGT in May last year, a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and V Gopala Gowda directed that the petition filed by NGO Jan Chetna “shall now be listed before a single judge bench of the HC, which shall decide the same without being influenced by the observations contained in the impugned order or this order”.
The apex court stated that the petition filed by the NGO could be heard only by the single bench rather than the division bench, which without dealing with the objections raised by Monnet Ispat to the maintainability of the petition proceeded to decide the matter on merits and the same “was legally impermissible”. However, the bench clarified that it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case.
Challenging the HC judgment that asked NGT to look into the case, Monnet Ispat argued that the tribunal does not have any jurisdiction to decide the matter as under Section 16 of the NGT Act only orders passed under the Air Act, the Water Act and the Environment Protection Act “on or after” the coming into force of the NGT Act can be adjudicated by the tribunal.
In this case, the clearance by the ministry was given prior to coming into force of the NGT Act, therefore, the tribunal cannot adjudicate the issue, the petition added.
The NGO had sought quashing of the environmental clearance given by the ministry to Monnet Ispat in October 2007 on the grounds that the government had ignored the objections raised by the people living in the area.
The “inadequate and faulty” Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by the state authorities based on which the Centre gave clearances “mislead the Union of India”, Jan Chetna had alleged.
After the National Green Tribunal Act came into effect in October 2010, the HC sent the matter to NGT again.
Monnet also argued that Jan Chetna had suppressed the fact that it had filed a civil suit before a civil court in Chhattisgarh having similar prayers as sought