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Bombay High Court disposes of PIL challenging provisions of Coastal Regulation zones

The Bombay High Court at Goa disposed of a bunch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) challenging certain provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) Notification, 2019. 

In one of the petitions instituted by Kashinath Shetye, he has challenged further notifications issued under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

A coordinate Bench of the High Court in the case of Vanashakti & Anr vs Union of India & Ors held that such petitions need not be entertained by the High Court because the petitioners have an alternate and efficacious remedy before the National Green Tribunal.

The decision in Vanashakti (supra) was challenged before the Supreme Court by instituting the petition for Special Leave to Appeal.

On August 3, 2022, the High Court had made it clear that it would await the decision of the  Supreme Court in the said SLP and only after that, decide whether these petitions should be entertained or whether the petitioners should be relegated to avail of the alternate remedy before the National Green Tribunal.

The  Supreme Court disposed of the above SLP on 30.09.2022 by making the following Order: 

 ‘In the facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court has rightly relegated the petitioners to approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) as number of technical issues arise which can very well be dealt with by the NGT are involved. Therefore, it is appropriate that the petitioners approach the NGT   as observed by the High Court. The Special Leave Petition stands dismissed. 
However, it is observed that if the petitioners approach the NGT within a period of four weeks from today, the proceedings be considering in accordance with law and on its own merits without raising the issue with respect to limitation.

All the contentions and defences which may be available to the respective parties are kept open to be considered by the NGT in accordance with law and on its own merits. 

Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.’Therefore, consistent with the above order, the High Court disposed of these petitions by relegating the petitioners to avail of the alternate remedy before the National Green Tribunal.  

Some of the petitioners, expressed apprehension on the issue of limitation. 
Raviraj Chodankar, Standing Counsel for the Central Government made it clear that if the petitioners indeed approach the NGT within 4 weeks , the issue of limitation will not be raised. This statement is entirely consistent with the directions of the Supreme Court in its order dated 30.09.2022 disposing of the above SLP.  

Even otherwise, all these petitioners, were bonafidely pursuing their petitions before the High Court. The issue of alternate remedy was also pending before the Supreme Court in the challenge against the decision in Vanashakti (supra). Therefore, consistent with the order made by the  Supreme Court, the Bench  also observe that in case the petitioners approach the NGT within 4 weeks , the proceedings they institute will be considered in accordance with law and on their own merits without raising the issue with respect to limitation. Further, all contentions of all parties are expressly left open because the High Court  have not examined the merits and these petitions are being disposed of only by relegating the petitioners to avail of the alternate remedy available before the NGT.  

“All these petitions are, therefore, disposed of by granting the petitioners liberty to approach the NGT. If the petitioners indeed approach the NGT within 4 weeks from today, the proceedings they institute be considered in accordance with law and on their own merits without raising the issue with respect to limitation”, the Court ordered.

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