NGT vs SC: Narrow reading of the law!

NGT vs SC: Narrow reading of the law!

(Indian Express)


  • Recently, the SC said that the stand of the NGT’s decision to dismiss an appeal against the environment clearance granted to the Bhogapuram airport project in Andhra Pradesh as time-barred is erroneous and based on a narrow reading of the law. 
  • The SC then set aside the order and directed the concerned parties to appear before the tribunal to argue the appeal on its merit.


  • The first appeal was filed in the NGT in 2017 against the environment clearance given to GMR’s Bhogapuram International Airport project at Vizag.
  • It flagged issues of illegalities such as cover-up of facts by the developer, incorrect baseline studies; insufficient and faulty environment impact assessment(EIA), non-application of mind during the appraisal by the Environment ministry’s experts, and violation of the Greenfield Airports policy of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
  • NGT quashed the appeal on the 91st day, concluding that there was no cause given amounting to be considered as sufficient to condone the delay.

What does the law say:

  • Under the NGT Act, 2010, a clearance may be challenged by an aggrieved party within thirty days as the tribunal has the authority to condone another 60 days with a reasonable and sufficient cause given.
  • The time limit applies from the day of communication is legally required to put every project clearance in the public domain.
  • While the NGT said that the appeal was filed on the 91st day and the 90-day period had expired. The SC said that there is no mention in the NGT Act that Section 10 of the General Clauses Act, which mandates that if a limitation expires on an off day, it will extend to the next day on which the court or related office is open, could not be applied.

Way forward:

  • As the SC said, nothing in the NGT Act excludes concerned parties who would be directly affected by a project, that has environmental repercussions, from accessing the tribunal. 
  • Also, making the nature of legal advice that can be accessed for challenging land acquisition, similar to a challenge to environmental clearance as well. which 
  • Which will involve the application of mind to technical issues in a detailed manner, would be unfair. Technical support, apart from professional legal advice is mandatory, when the NGT were to be approached.

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