NGT has domain to deal with carrying capacity of eco-senstive Kullu, Manali & Mcleodganj : HC
Shimla, Dec 18,
In a legal development, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has dismissed a petition filed by the state challenging the jurisdiction of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in addressing environmental concerns in ecologically sensitive areas, specifically Kullu, Manali, and Mcleodganj. The court, in its 16-page verdict delivered on December 14, 2023, highlighted key arguments and findings.
Passing the judgement a division bench of Justice Vivek Singh Thakur and justice Bipin Singh Negi dismissed the petition of state on December 14.
Agrieved by the NGT order, passed on September 29, 2019 state had moved Himachal Pradesh High court seeking quashing of the immpugined verdict.
The counsel for the state Advocate General Anup Rattan pleaded that NGT has exceeded its jurisdiction to deal with the general issue of haphazard, unplanned and unsustainable construction being raised in the eco-sensitive area of Kullu, Manali and Mcleodganj.
The state had initially approached the High Court in 2019, contending that the NGT overstepped its bounds by delving into the broader issue of haphazard and unsustainable construction in eco-sensitive zones, beyond the scope of the original application related to environmental violations in a Manali tourist resort case.
The High Court rejected the state’s assertion, emphasizing that Section 33 of the NGT Act provides the tribunal with overriding powers concerning environmental matters, allowing it to examine carrying capacity issues in the specified areas. The court ruled that the NGT had appropriately exercised its jurisdiction under Sections 15 and 20 of the NGT Act.
State argued that the matter of construction of “Manali Valley Hotel” was disposed of by the green tribunal on the assurance of respondent who made a statement thatwould demolish the unauthorized construction as well as restore the Government land occupied and take all anti-pollution measures to satisfaction of the concerned authority. It is worthwhile to mention that hotel unit belonged to son of a former minister.
The NGT had expressed alarm over unregulated constructions, particularly hotels, in the Manali region, citing a potential adverse impact on the environment. An expert committee, formed by the tribunal, conducted field visits and submitted a report in July 2019, indicating the unregulated growth in the area due to increased tourism and its associated environmental consequences.
Lack of Carrying Capacity Reports:
One crucial point raised by the High Court was the absence of carrying capacity reports presented by the state for the concerned areas, including Mcleodganj, which falls within the planning area of Dharamshala. Even for the Dharamshala planning area, no carrying capacity report was submitted before the NGT.
Concluding the 16 paged verdict HC said that, there is no merit in submission of advocate General that tribunal by legislating the matter transgressed its domain with regards to carrying capacity.
The court underscored the importance of adherence to construction norms outlined in the Revised Development Plan of Dharamshala in 2018. It directed the state to address issues of penalty for constructions violating approved areas, indicating that the state had committed to amending relevant rrules.
In its concluding remarks, the High Court firmly rejected the state’s arguments, stating that the NGT did not overstep its domain. The court highlighted the NGT’s authority in addressing environmental issues and urged the state to comply with construction norms and penalty regulations outlined in the Revised Developmemt Plan.
Noteworthy that this legal decision carries significant implications for the regulation of construction activities in environmentally sensitive regions and reaffirms the NGT’s authority in overseeing matters related to carrying capacity and environmental sustainability.
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