The Bombay High Court today quashed an order of the Union environment ministry which had transferred the jurisdiction over Goa from the Pune bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to its principal bench at New Delhi.
Justices G S Patel and N D Sardessai of the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court also recommended that the Goa government set up a "circuit bench" of the NGT in the state.
"We quash and strike down the notification of August 10, 2017 in so far as it transfers the jurisdiction of the Western Regional Bench from Pune to New Delhi in regard to the state of Goa," the court said.
"We say nothing about the territories of Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli simply because there is no challenge in that regard before us," the high ccourt said.
The court, in an interim order on August 10, had said that no files from the western region bench should be transferred to the NGT at Delhi.
"In view of our judgement, the Western Region Bench will therefore, now be entitled to proceed with the hearings of the cases filed before it," the high court order said.
The high court had taken a 'suo moto' (on its own) notice of news reports that matters from Goa before the NGT, western zone (at Pune) had been transferred by a notification of the environment ministry to the green tribunal's principal bench in New Delhi.
Activists had also filed two public interest litigations (PIL) before the high court opposing the notification.
During the hearing, the Goa government had said that a circuit bench of the NGT can be set up in the state.
The high court today said that "it seems to be a common ground that a circuit bench in Panaji is an optimal solution".
"This (Goa) is an extra ordinary state, in more ways than one, a place where, perhaps more than anywhere else, sky, sea and earth meet...It is a land of confluences, where diverse strands meet and co-exist; and in a time of apparently incessant strife and discord, it is still a mostly liberal land," the high court said.
If the NGT at Pune gets so many cases from Goa, it is not just because the people of Goa are litigious, the high court said, adding "if true, that may only speak to their continued faith in the legal system and its processes".
"It is because they perceive that there is something of value here to protect," the court said.
"Though we cannot command it, we can most emphatically commend it that both the state government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change must immediately take up with all seriousness the proposal to establish a circuit bench in Goa," the court said.
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