The Madras High Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government, challenging the Rs 100 crore penalty imposed on the state by the National Green Tribunal for not cleaning the Buckingham Canal, Adyar and Cooum rivers.
A Division Bench of Justices R Subbaiah and C Saravanan held the petition as not maintainable, saying as per Section 22 of the NGT Act, an appeal against any order of the tribunal can be made only in the Supreme Court.
"When there is an efficacious and statutory remedy of appeal available before the Honourable Supreme Court,this writ petition filed by the petitioner, as against the order dated 13.02.2019 passed by the tribunal, is not maintainable," it said.
The state Advocate General contended that Section 22 had a word "may" which meant an aggrieved person may either approach the Supreme Court or this court.
Rejecting his argument, the bench in its order said such submission made by the learned Advocate General cannot be countenanced. "Section 22 of the Act clearly stipulates that any person aggrieved by any award, decision or order of the tribunal may file an appeal to the Supreme Court."
It was crystal clear the apex court is the appellate authority to entertain an appeal agains the decision of NGT, it added.
The judges said they were not inclined to go into the merits or otherwise of the contentions raised in the petition.
The high court had on April 9 granted an interim stay on the Rs 100 crore penalty imposed by the NGT-South Zone for the government's failure to restore Adyar and Cooum rivers and the Buckingham Canal here.
Directing the government to pay the penalty to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the tribunal in its order had said the money shall be utilised to restore the water bodies.
The government had challenged the NGT order contending that it "lacked non-application of mind and was based on mistake of facts".
It was also contrary to the principles of natural justice and was arbitrary and unreasonable, the petition argued.
The NGT had passed the order on a batch of pleas, including one moved by social activist Jawahar Shanmugam, seeking a direction to the state to restore and revive the water bodies.
Adyar and Cooum are two of the most polluted rivers to flow through any major urban agglomeration anywhere in the world and the state government was accountable for the situation, the tribunal had observed in its order.
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