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NGT power flight to Delhi grounded

HC quashes Govt order transferring jurisdiction of Western Zonal Bench from Pune to national capital; advocates establishment of Circuit Bench in Goa

Story: The Goan Network | 12th October 2017, 02:42 Hrs

PANAJI: The Bombay High Court at Goa has quashed and struck down the order of the Ministry of Environment and Forests which transfers the jurisdiction of the Western Zonal Bench from Pune to New Delhi in regard to the State of Goa.
The Court also ‘commended', while not commanding, since it was outside its jurisdiction to do so, that "both the State Government and the MOEF must immediately take up with all seriousness the proposal to establish a Circuit Bench in Goa."
The order delivered on Wednesday by Justices GS Patel and Nutan Sardesai, the High Court has rejected all claims made by the State and Central governments concerning the ‘inconvenience' of travelling to Pune for the purpose of securing environmental litigation.
"At a time and in an age when Courts are considering branching out so that litigants are put to less inconvenience and less hardship, it strikes us as utterly extraordinary that any government should, in the guise of its own inconvenience or convenience, seek to shift a Tribunal several thousand kilometres away and then claim that this is for the greater public good. Indeed it is not," the Bombay High Court at Goa said in its order.
The court also dismantled the government's arguments that Pune was inaccessible and that it did not have sufficient legal representation in Pune, that there weren't quality lawyers, etc in Pune one by one.
"We find it particularly surprising that it took the Government five or six years to awaken to the realization that it did not have lawyers in Pune. That is a city bursting with lawyers. We see no reason why the Government could not have assembled a team of lawyers to represent it even as standing counsel. The statement on affidavit is regrettable. If the imputation is that lawyers from Goa are unable to cope or properly attend to NGT matters in
Pune, then that is simply untrue," the court observed.
"Pune can hardly be said to be a place of low connectivity. There are the options of travel by road, rail and by air, both from Mumbai and directly to Pune, even if direct air connections from Goa to Pune are less than might be desired. Road and rail travel is out of the question in reaching Delhi. That more or less completely eliminates the common litigant. It leaves us with consideration of only the affluent, those who can afford air travel and the expensive taxi travel once in Delhi," the court noted.
Advocate General for Goa Dattaprasad Lawande agreed that the optimal solution would be to have a Circuit Bench in Goa. "If that is not possible, then a Bench in Mumbai is preferable. If that too is not possible, then Delhi is preferable to the last alternative, Pune, which is the most inconvenient and the least optimal of the four," Lawande is recorded as having told the Court.
Besides the High Court taking up the matter on its own motion through a suo motu writ petition, the High Court was in receipt of a total of five petitions filed by a total of 25 persons and organizations including the Goa Foundation, Federation of Rainbow Warriors, the Pilerne Citizens Forum, the Baina Ramponkars, several civic and consumer fora and the like.

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PARRIKAR REMAINS DEFIANT
PANAJI: Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has remained defiant in the face of an adverse order of the High Court against his decision to have the jurisdiction of the NGT changed to bring Goa under the ambit of the principal bench in New Delhi.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told media persons that his government would appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court.
"We will go (appeal in) to the Supreme Court as (travelling to) Pune is a headache for us. Our lawyers are in Delhi and Delhi is good for us," Parrikar said.
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CONTENTION OF GOVT
Inconvenience of travelling to Pune for
the purpose of securing
environmental litigation
HIGH COURT RAP
It strikes us as utterly extraordinary that any government should, in the guise of its own inconvenience
or convenience, seek to shift a Tribunal several thousand kilometres away and then claim that this is
for the greater public good. Indeed it is not
CONTENTION OF GOVT
Pune is inaccessible and have non
sufficient legal representation in Pune
HIGH COURT RAP
We find it particularly surprising that it took the Government five or six years to awaken to the realization that it did not have lawyers in Pune. If the imputation is that lawyers from Goa are unable to cope or properly attend to NGT matters in Pune, then that is simply untrue
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TIMELINE
August 17, 2011: The notification constituting the Western Zone Bench is issued
November 2015: Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar requests MoEF to shift jurisdiction of NGT and a bench be established at Goa
June 9, 2017: Present Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar sends a fresh request
August 10: MoEF passes order transferring the jurisdiction of the Western Zonal Bench
August 21: High Court takes up the matter suo motu, several petitions filed
October 11: HC quashes MoEF order; advocates Circuit Bench in Goa
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