Goa Foundation Vs Union of India

Posted on
25 September 2014
Goa Foundation
Union of India
Original Application No. 26 Of 2012
(M.A. NOs. 868/2013, 47/2014 & 291/2014)

Judicial and Expert Members: Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar, Mr. Justice Pratap Kumar Ray, Dr. D.K. Agrawal, Prof. A.R. Yousuf, Dr. R.C.Trivedi
Keywords: Western Ghats, WGEEP, Kasturirangan, Gadgil report, ESA
Application disposed of
Dated: 25 September 2014
1. Whether the judgment is allowed to be published on the net?
2. Whether the judgment is allowed to be published in the NGT Reporter?
Both the applicants have approached the Tribunal with the following prayers:
“(i). Direct the Respondents not to issue any consent/Environment Clearance/NOC/Permission under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 within the Western Ghats area in respect of areas which have been demarcated as ESZ1 and ESZ2 as mentioned in Para No. 19 above;
(ii). Pass such order/s as this Hon’ble Tribunal may feel fit and proper in the facts and circumstance of the case.
(iii). To direct the Respondents to discharge their obligations by exercise of the powers conferred upon them under the respective enactments mentioned in Schedule I of the NGT Act, 2010 for protection and preservation of Western Ghats in the framework as enunciated by the WGEEP in its report dated 31.08.2011.”
As is evident from the prayers made in this application, the Applicants pray that recommendations made in the report submitted by the WGEEP (in formally called Dr. Gadgil’s Report) are to be implemented to protect the Western Ghats in furtherance to its constitutional obligations emerging from Article-14 and 21 read with Article-48 and 51-(A), (g) of the Constitution of India.
During the pendency of this application, the MoEF had taken a conscious decision to constitute another High Level Working Group (HLWG) under the Chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan. This Committee (informally termed Dr. K. Kasturirangan Committee) submitted its report to the MoEF which in turn initially took a decision to accept the said report in principle and proposed a draft notification under section 5 of the Environment(Protection) Act, 1986 (for short, 1986 Act) and invited objections from all stakeholders including the States.
The Applicant continued to persist with the prayer that the areas of Western Ghats, which were not included in the Dr. K. Kasturirangan Committee Report and consequently, not covered by the draft notification should still be protected as eco-sensitive zone in the interest of the environment and ecology.
In furtherance to the Tribunal’s order that MoEF give a clear and unambiguous stand about the draft notification, MoEF has filed the affidavit saying:
“(J). That the Ecologically sensitive area as stated in the draftnotification S.O. No. 733(E) dated 10.03.201 forms the basis for demarcation ESA by physical verification by the State Governments of Western Ghats region. The State Governments of Western Ghats region, may after undertaking demarcation of ESA by physical verification, propose the exclusion/inclusion of certain areas from/in the Ecologically Sensitive Area as stated in the draft notification S.O. No. 733(E) dated 10.03.2014. Such proposals of the State Governments received after physical verification, would be examined by the Ministry before taking a view on further appropriate action including inter-alia issuing a fresh draft notification, if required, to seek objections from the public on the proposals received from the State Governments of Western Ghats.
(I). That the Direction issued under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, on 13th November, 2013 for providing immediate protection to the Western Ghats and maintain its environmental integrity is in force.”
The Tribunal accepted the stand taken by the MoEF in the affidavit filed by the Secretary, MoEF as the clear and unambiguous stand of the Government of India for finally settling this crucial issue which remains pending for years and in fact, pending before this Tribunal since the year 2012.
In view of the affidavit filed by the Secretary, MoEF, we are of the considered view that there is no occasion for the Tribunal to keep this main and other applications pending any longer. MoEF is expected to discharge and perform its statutory obligations expeditiously and in accordance with law. According to the affidavit of the Secretary, MoEF particularly the portion as re-produced above, MoEF is considering exclusion/inclusion of certain areas from/in the ecological sensitive areas, as stated in the draft notification dated 10.03.2014. In other words, MoEF has decided to examine all aspects regarding the ecologically sensitive areas before issuing final notification in terms of section 3 of the Act of 1986.
Most importantly, it has also been stated in the affidavit that the Ministry is going to take further appropriate action inter-alia issuing fresh draft notification in that behalf.
Thus, it is now exclusively for the MoEF to determine and decide the rival contentions, and the period for which the restrictions as issued by the MoEF in its order dated 13.11.2013 should remain operative. It is the duty expected of the MoEF to maintain the environmental tranquillity and ecology of the areas under consideration, in the condition as they exist today, and not to allow irreversible alteration of the areas in question by granting Environmental Clearance or permitting activities which would have an adverse impact on the eco-sensitive areas.
We may also notice that on behalf of the State of Kerala, it was specifically contended before us that they have already submitted not only their objections but even their physical measurements of the area that could be declared as “eco-sensitive area” and the matter is pending with the MoEF now for a considerable time. All that we can direct is that this matter should also be dealt with by the MoEF with utmost expeditiousness. It will be obviously open to the MoEF to declare the ecologically sensitive areas, State-wise or collectively, for the entire Western Ghats which is relatable to all six the states afore-indicated.
Application is disposed of. 


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