Supreme Court Condemns NGT For Often Passing Ex-Parte Orders Imposing Penalties
Advises it to act with ‘procedural integrity’
The Supreme Court has expressed its discontent with the practice of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) of passing ex parte orders and imposing damages without proper investigation.
While passing the judgment the Division Bench of Justice PS Narasimha and Justice Aravind Kumar said, “The NGT’s recurrent engagement in unilateral decision-making, provisioning ex post facto review hearing and routinely dismissing it, has regrettably become a prevailing norm. In its zealous quest for justice, the tribunal must tread carefully to avoid the oversight of propriety. The practice of ex parte orders and the imposition of damages amounting to crores of rupees have proven counter-productive in the broader mission of environmental safeguarding.”
The Court stated that such orders had consistently faced stays from the Apex Court.
The judges held, "The tribunal must infuse a renewed sense of procedural integrity, ensuring that its actions resonate with a harmonious balance between justice and due process. Only then it can reclaim its standing as a beacon of environmental protection, where well-intentioned endeavors are not simply washed away.”
The observations were made during the hearing of the two appeals challenging the green tribunal's order.
In the first order, the tribunal had passed an ex parte order against the appellants in suo motu proceedings, directing it to compensate. In the second, the review petition filed by one of the appellants was dismissed. The appellant had argued that an adverse order was passed without providing him the opportunity to be heard.
The Top Court noted that no notices were issued to the project proponents, and the tribunal did not verify the facts.
Thus, the Court ruled, “It is evident that the tribunal has noted that notices were not issued to the project proponents. The tribunal considered it unnecessary to hear the project proponent to verify the facts.”
The bench noted that the appellants were not provided the opportunity to contest the matter. Thus, when the appeals were filed, vide its 04.03.2022 order, the Supreme Court stayed the order passed by the green tribunal. It emphasized that two years had passed since and the stay was still operating.
While setting aside the impugned orders, the bench remanded the matter back to the NGT.
It added, “The tribunal shall hear the case, uninfluenced by the observations and conclusions drawn in the 31.08.2021 and 26.11.2021 orders.”