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Circuit Bench will address all issues: HC

State govt slammed for delay, gets one final chance to reply over NGT jurisdiction transfer

Story: The Goan Network | 14th September 2017, 03:09 Hrs

 

PANAJI: The Bombay High Court at Goa has slammed the State government for delay in filing its affidavit in the matter of shifting the NGT's jurisdiction even as it suggested that setting up a circuit bench of the NGT's circuit bench would be "in the interest of the Government itself."

The court asked the government to file its say on the court's suggestions as well as directed that its order be sent to the Western Zone bench that is seated at Pune for its opinion on setting up a circuit bench at Goa.
"We are constrained to note that despite the clear directions in our order of 5th September 2017, we have, as yet, no affidavit in reply from the State Government. This is unfortunate, but we will yet afford the State Government one final opportunity, and we do so because of the importance of the issue," the division bench of justices GS Patel and Nutan Sardesai noted in an interim order issued on September 12, a written copy of which was made available on Wednesday.
The Bench was however, in receipt of the affidavit filed by the Central government's Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), but noted that it failed to see the rationale behind shifting the cases to the principal bench in New Delhi.
"For our part, we are quite unable to understand how the concept of access to justice and, in this case, environmental justice is subserved by moving the forum to a site that is the better part of day's travel away, one impossible to reach conveniently by road or rail and only accessible by expensive air travel," the HC observed.
"Prima facie, we find that the statements made furnish a compelling argument for establishing in Panjim, Goa, a Circuit Bench of the NGT Western Zone Bench, one that currently sits at Pune.... We are equally unable to fathom the rationale behind a proposal to shift all Goa-related matters even further away to the principal seat in New Delhi," the High Court noted.
Responding to the claims made by the MoEF & CC in its affidavit, that the decision was taken on account of the inconvenient connectivity between Goa and Pune and also the lack of a legal set up in Pune, the HC was having none of it.
"While there is little can be done about connectivity, the second argument is singularly without appeal. In the four years or so since the NGT started in its Western Zone Bench in Pune, the State Government has surely had sufficient time to establish whatever infrastructure it requires in Pune, and to set up a legal team," the court observed going on to suggest that setting up a court in Goa would solve all the problems listed by the government in its affidavit.
The court then proceeded to direct the government to respond examining the feasibility of setting up a circuit bench of the NGT in Goa, while also recording that they have been "informally told that there is sufficient space in the old District Court building in Panaji as also in the temporary building being used at ‘Spaces' at Patto, Panaji. Both locations have registry facilities."
"Our only intention is to find a mutually acceptable solution that subserves the interests of all concerned; and by this we mean litigants, lawyers and the State Government equally," the High Court said.

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HIGH COURT REPRIMAND

1)
We are constrained to note that despite the clear directions in our order of 5th September 2017, we have, as yet, no affidavit in reply from the State Government

2)
This is unfortunate, but we will yet afford the State Government one final opportunity, and we do so because of the importance of the issue

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BACKGROUNDER
* In August, the Centre notifies shifting Goa from NGT jurisdiction of Pune bench to the bench in national capital
* Bombay High Court at Goa takes suo moto cognisance of the notification and issues a notice to the state government
* Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar says the Centre's decision to transfer cases was on request made by his government

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Goa deserves special
consideration: Court

PANAJI: The High Court, while hearing a bunch of petitions against the government's decision to shift Goa's cases before the NGT to Pune recorded that Goa would indeed deserve a special consideration.
"What makes Goa different and perhaps special is not just the volume of the filings before the NGT, a matter that might be attributed to pronounced local fascination with and penchant for the process of law, but more importantly to the environmental sensitivity of this land. It is a land as intensely fertile as it is fragile," the High Court noted in its order.
"It needs special attention in law and in court, and it needs more often and closer home," the HC noted.
"The NGT has not been set up for the benefit or convenience of this or that government. It is established under a law to address environmental issues and before the NGT, as indeed before any Court, all litigants, whoever they be, are equal," the HC said adding that the government would do well to bear in mind that "it has an obligation to citizens and to
environmental protection, a duty that cannot be denied."

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