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NGT order of demolition of Hotel-cum-restaurant at Bus Stand in HP upheld by SC

Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority vs The Central Empowered Committee Etc. & Ors

Civil Appeal Nos. 5231-32 of 2016 with Civil Appeal Nos. 5229-5230 of 2016

Decided on 12th January, 2021

A three judge bench comprising of Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice Indira Banerjee decided the case. The court decided that the construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex is illegal and constitutes a brazen violation of law.

Central Empowered Commission (CEC), the first respondent, submitted a report to National Green Tribunal (NGT) about a Bus Stand Complex, belonging to the second respondent. The NGT accepted the findings in the report and ordered to demolish the Bus Stand Complex. This order has been already challenged in this court where the Hon’ble court had ordered a stay against the operative portion of judgement directing to demolish the structure. The civil appeals in the present case arise under Section 22 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (“NGT Act”). The correctness of a judgment and order dated 4 May 2016 of the National Green Tribunal (“NGT”) is in issue.

The counsel on the behalf of the petitioner contended that the land was legitimately provided for the construction of Bus Stand Complex. It was also contended that there was no violation of Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act, 1977 (“TCP Act”). The submission was supported by the second respondent.

The CEC arguing in support of NGT’s impugned judgment submitted that the forest land was permitted to be diverted for “non-forest purposes” only for the construction of a bus stand and parking space. However, the appellant expanded the scope to include a Hotel-cum-Restaurant without prior permission. The submission was supported by sixth and seventh respondent.

The court stated that,

The appellant, on being granted permission to engage in construction for a specified purpose, unlawfully utilised that permission as the basis to construct a different structure which was not authorized. It has done so in disregard of the provisions of the Forest Act. (Para 41)

Also, highlighting Section 2 of the Forest Act, the court held that,

The provisions of Section 2 mandate strict and punctilious compliance. Mere substantial compliance is not enough. The construction of the Hotel-cum Restaurant structure is entirely illegal, having been carried out in clear breach of this mandatory statutory stipulation. (Para 42)

The court agreeing to the report of CEC stated that,

The report of the CEC is a serious indictment of the actions of the appellant. (Para 43)

The court also highlighted the importance of Environmental rule of Law and backed it with the decision in Hanuman Laxman Aroskar vs Union of India which also highlighted the importance of Environmental rule of Law,

The environmental rule of law, at a certain level, is a facet of the concept of the rule of law. But it includes specific features that are unique to environmental governance, features which are sui generis. The environmental rule of law seeks to create essential tools – conceptual, procedural and institutional to bring structure to the discourse on environmental protection. (Para 47)

The court also observed that,

In Lal Bahadur vs State of Uttar Pradesh9 , this Court underscored the principles that are the cornerstone of our environmental jurisprudence, as emerging from a settled line of precedent: the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle and sustainable development………….

In a recent decision in State of Meghalaya & others vs All Dimasa Students, this Court reiterated the key principles of environmental jurisprudence in India, while awarding costs of Rs. 100 crores on the State of Meghalaya for engaging in illegal coal mining. (Para 55)

The court, on illegal activities on forest land, highlighted some facts,

In the past, this Court has clamped down on illegal activities on reserved forest land specifically, and in violation of environmental laws more generally, and taken to task those responsible for it. (Para 59)

The court finally ordered to demolish the Bus Stand Complex.

The appeal was disposed of.

Nishant Aryaman



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