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Central India AYUSH Drugs Manufacturers Association and ors. v. State of Maharashtra and ors. - (High Court of Bombay) (28 Sep 2016)

NGT not empowered to adjudicate upon vires or validity of any enactment



By instant writ petition, Petitioners sought a declaration that Rule 17 of Biological Diversity Rules, 2004 does not apply to Indian entities or body corporates. It is prayed that to the extent said Rule envisages equitable sharing of benefits by the Indian entities, it should be declared ultra vires to provisions of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and, therefore, unconstitutional. Further, declaration was sought that the Guidelines on Access to Biological Resources and Associated Knowledge and Benefits Sharing Regulations, 2014 apply only to transactions involving non-Indian entities and same do not apply to Indian entities not treading any biological resources with non-Indian entities.

Issue of enforcement of a legal right relating to environment or a substantial question relating to environment must surface and form subject-matter of a civil case arising out of implementation of Schedule I enactments. Then only National Green Tribunal will have jurisdiction under Section 14 of National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.. Section 2[m] of Act, 2010 stipulates that if there is direct violation of specific statutory environmental obligation or then environmental consequences relating to a specific activity or a point source of pollution, same are covered in the sweep of this inclusive definition. Cause giving rise to civil case must have some impact on environment so as to make it a question relating to environment. It is the degree of this impact which may then make it a substantial question. Section 2[c] of Act, 2010 includes water, air and land, and the inter relationship which exists among and between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganism and property. Thus, natural elements mentioned in said definition and the impact upon it of living creatures or property, therefore, constitute environment. Thus, inter-relationship between these elements and other factors stipulated therein together, jointly and severally constitute environment. When Section 14[c] of Act, 2010 is read along with and construed with Section 2[c] and [m] of Act, 2010, it is clear that civil cases which can be considered by National Green Tribunal must affect environment. If it is not affecting environment, the Tribunal will not have jurisdiction. In present facts, reliefs sought for do not directly or indirectly affect environment.

Considering the jurisdiction given to National Green Tribunal only to decide civil cases, where substantial question involved is in relation to environment, it is apparent that, NGT cannot be said to be conferred with absolute jurisdiction to adjudicate all types of disputes or even all civil disputes. A limited jurisdiction to deal with specific type of civil disputes is only made available to it. Reading of Section 28 of Act,2010 prescribing the bar of jurisdiction also substantiates this. Thus, power to pronounce upon vires of any statutory provision or of any subordinate legislation can not be read into any of provisions which confer either appellate or original jurisdiction upon National Green Tribunal.

Controversy presented to this Court in writ petition does not qualify as a civil case wherein substantial question relating to environment is involved. Similarly, National Green Tribunal does not posses power to adjudicate upon the vires or validity of any enactment in Schedule I or of subordinate legislation framed under such enactment. Bombay High Court rejected Preliminary objection and declared that the petitioners do not have any alternate remedy before National Green Tribunal to raise its challenge in this writ petition.

Relevant : Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. v. Nagpur Municipal Corporation and another , Sections 14, 28 of NGT Act, 2010


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