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Thursday, September 19, 2013

jurisdiction of a Single Judge and of Benches of the Court.= JURISDICTION OF A SINGLE JUDGE AND OF BENCHES OF THE COURT 1. Cases ordinarily to be heard by a single Judge—Subject to the provisos hereinafter set forth the following classes of cases shall ordinarily be heard and disposed of by a Judge setting alone: (i) to (xvii) xxx xxx xxx (xviii) (a) Application or petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for the issue of any directions, orders or writs in the nature of Mandamus, prohibition, quo-warranto or certiorari for the enforcement of fundamental rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution of India or for any other purpose, except: (i) Petitions where vires of Acts or statutory rules, regulations, or bye-laws are challenged. (ii) Petitions where personal liberty is involved. (iii) Petitions pertaining to all Revenue/tax matters including entertainment taxes, except Municipal Tax. (iv) Petitions arising from the orders of the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction/Appellate Authority for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction or seeking directions to them; and (v) Petitions pertaining to Public Interest litigation. (vi) Petitions pertaining to the award to Tenders. (vii) Petitions relating to Co-operative Societies. (viii) Petitions being service matters of Armed Forces of the Union. (ix) Petitions arising out of Land Acquisition. (x) Petitions concerning orders passed by the High Court on the administrative side. Provided that as regards pending cases, the learned single Judge may hear the part-heard matters. Explanation: The preliminary hearing for admission and final disposal of applications and petitions pertaining to matters mentioned in clause (i) to (x) of sub-rule (xviii)(a) above shall however be before a Bench of two Judges and before a Single Bench when there is no sitting of Division Bench.” Rule 4, which relates to jurisdiction of a Bench of two Judges, also reads as under: “4. All cases to be disposed of by a Bench of two Judges save as provided by law or by these rules—Save as provided by law or by these rules or by special order of the Chief Justice, all cases shall be heard and disposed of by a Bench of two Judges.” A bare reading of the above reproduced provisions makes it clear that the petition filed by respondent No.1 for quashing order dated 31.12.2008 could be heard only by Single Bench of the Delhi High Court. However, by disguising the petition as a Public Interest Litigation, respondent No.1 succeeded in getting the same listed before the Division Bench of the High Court. Unfortunately, the Division Bench did not deal with the objection raised by the appellant to the maintainability of the petition filed by respondent No.1 and proceeded to decide the matter on merits which, in our considered view, was legally impermissible. 15. We are not suggesting that respondent No.1 had indulged in Bench hunting but it needs to be emphasised that every Bench of the High Court should scrupulously follow the relevant rules and should not violate statutory provisions specifying its jurisdiction, else the sanctity of the rules relating to distribution of causes between the Single, the Division Bench and larger Benches will be lost. In the result, the appeal is allowed and the impugned order is set aside. The writ petition filed by respondent No.1 shall now be listed before a Single Judge of the High Court, who shall decide the same without being influenced by the observations contained in the impugned order or this order.

                            published in       http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40797                    
        NON-REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL No. 8288 OF 2013
                 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 27387 of 2012)


M/s. Monnet Ispat and Energy Limited
....Appellant

                                   versus

Jan Chetna and others                                      ....Respondents





                                  O R D E R

G.S. SINGHVI, J.

1.    Whether the  Division  Bench  of  the  Delhi  High  Court  could  have
entertained and allowed the petition filed  by  respondent  No.1  as  Public
Interest Litigation for setting  aside  order  dated  31.12.2008  passed  by
National Environment Appellate Authority (for short,  ‘NEAA’)  and  remanded
the case to the competent quasi judicial forum for being decided on merits.

2.    The appellant is a  company  incorporated  under  the  Companies  Act,
1956. Its registered office is at Raipur (Chhattisgarh). On  27.6.2007,  the
appellant  submitted  an  application  to   Chhattisgarh   Environment   and
Conservation Board (respondent No.3) for sanctioning the proposed  expansion
of its existing  plant  at  Naharpali,  Kharsia,  Raigarh.  Respondent  No.3
issued notice dated 4.8.2007 under the Environment Protection Act, 1986  and
the Rules framed thereunder for holding public  hearing.   As  many  as  700
persons participated in the  public  hearing.  Thereafter,  respondent  No.3
sent report dated 4.10.2007 to  the  Ministry  of  Environment  and  Forests
(respondent No.2), which granted environmental clearance for the project  of
the appellant.

3.    Two days before  the  date  fixed  for  public  hearing,  Shri  Ramesh
Agrawal  and  two  others,  namely,  Ms.  Ranjana  Rajput  and   Mr.   Vinod
Chhaparlya filed Civil Suit No.30-A/ 2007 in the Court  of  District  Judge,
Raigarh (for short,  ‘the  trial  Court’)  impleading  the  appellant  as  a
defendant and prayed for grant of  a  declaration  that  the  appellant  had
illegally set up industry at  Villages  Naharpali,  Bhupdevpur,  Salihabhata
and Singhanpur.  They further prayed for ordering closure  of  the  industry
and for issue of a  permanent  injunction  against  the  holding  of  public
hearing for expansion of the existing industry and  /  or  establishment  of
any new industry by the appellant.

4.    Along with the suit, the plaintiffs filed an application  under  Order
39 Rules 1 and 2 CPC for stay of the  public  hearing.      By  order  dated
4.8.2007,  the  trial  Court  dismissed  the   application   for   temporary
injunction.  After six days,  Shri  Ramesh  Agrawal  and  two  others  filed
another application for injunction but no order appears to have been  passed
on that application.

5.    After 2 months and 20 days of rejection of the injunction  application
filed by Shri Ramesh Agrawal and two others,  Shri  Ram  Kumar  Agarwal  and
Shri Ramesh Sharma filed Writ Petition No.5534/2007 before the  Chhattisgarh
High Court under the name and style of “Ekta Parishad” and prayed  that  the
State Government may be directed to conduct an inquiry into the  correctness
and genuineness of the Environment  Impact  Assessment  Report  prepared  by
respondent No.3.  Later on, the writ petitioners withdrew their cause.

6.    The environment clearance granted by respondent  No.2  was  challenged
by respondent No.1 by  filing  an  appeal  under  the  National  Environment
Appellate Authority Act, 1997 (for  short,  ‘the  1997  Act’).   On  notice,
respondent No.3 filed reply  and  pleaded  that  environment  clearance  was
granted to the appellant in accordance with law.  NEAA dismissed the  appeal
of respondent No.1 vide order dated 31.12.2008 by  recording  the  following
observations:

      "10. The Counsel for Appellant submitted the proceedings of the  draft
      constitution of Jan Chetna on 24.11.2008 without supporting  affidavit
      which was required to be filed under the NEAA Rules, 1997  for  taking
      responsibility  of  the  authenticity  of  the  facts  stated  in  the
      document. The Counsel for the Appellant mentioned that  the  affidavit
      is required to be filed only while filing  the  Memorandum  of  Appeal
      under the NEAA  Rules  and  not  with  the  subsequent  document.  The
      Authority perused the draft proceedings of the meeting dated 15.2.2005
      and observed that only 10 persons have formed the  association  called
      "Jan Chetna". Out of 10 members only two members complete address  are
      given in the proceedings. From the  addresses  so  given,  it  may  be
      inferred that none of the members of "Jan Chetna" belong to Naharpali,
      Kharsia, Raigarh, the project area. Further the minutes of the meeting
      dated  15.2.2008  shows  that   Shri   Rajesh   Tripathi   was   given
      responsibility of preparation of authorization  letter  in  favour  of
      Ramesh Aggarwal  and  issue  the  same  to  oppose  the  Environmental
      Clearance granted to the Respondent No.3. As per serial number  12  of
      the proceedings dated 10.5.2005, Shri Rajesh  Tripathi's  address  for
      communication etc., would be No.159, Kelo Vihar, Raigarh. But,  it  is
      found that the Authorisation letter issued  by  Shri  Rajesh  Tripathi
      bearing the address of Satyam Kunj, Naya Gunj, Raigarh, which was  the
      address  of  Shri  Ramesh  Aggarwal  and  there  was  no  mention   of
      designation of Shri Rajesh Tripathi in this letter. This action of the
      Appellant creates doubt about the authenticity  of  the  authorization
      letter so issued. From the above it  is  clear  that  neither  of  the
      members of the "Association" - Jan  Chetna  as  aggrieved  persons  as
      claimed in para 4(iv) above nor it has been authorized by the  primary
      aggrieved persons.  
The Appellant  has  not  disclosed  all  material
      facts for the purpose of adjudication of the Appeal. While considering
      the legality of secondary public  injury  complaints  by  the  Hon'ble
      Supreme Court in S.P. Gupta Vs. UOI (1981), See SCC 87 held as follow:




           "..........  in  such  cases  a  member  of  the  public  having
           sufficient interest can certainly maintain an action challenging
           the legality of such acts or omissions  but  if  the  person  or
           specific class or group of persons who are primarily injured  by
           such acts or omissions, do not wish  to  claim  any  relief  and
           accept such act or omission willingly and without  protest,  the
           member of public who complaints of  a  secondary  public  injury
           cannot maintain the action."


      The Appellant has failed to prove that its association  is  acting  on
      behalf and in the interest of people who are or may be affected by the
      grant of Environmental Clearance by Respondent No.1.


      Having perused all the submissions and  the  documents  filed  by  the
      Appellant  and  the  Respondents,  the  Authority  conclude  that  the
      Appellant organization - Jan Chetna is not an association  of  persons
      likely to be affected by the  order  of  the  Environmental  Clearance
      granted  to  Respondent  No.3  by  Respondent  No.1.  Therefore,   the
      Appellant organization - Jan Chetna is not qualified to file an Appeal
      before this Authority under Section 11(2)(c) of the  NEAA  Act,  1997.
      Accordingly, the Appeal filed by the Appellant is not maintainable.”



7.    Respondent No.1 challenged the aforesaid order in  Writ  Petition  (C)
No. 8399 of 2009, which was described as a Public  Interest  Litigation  and
prayed that order dated 31.12.2008 passed by NEAA may be  set  aside  and  a
direction be issued to NEAA to decide the  appeal  on  merits.    Respondent
No.1 claimed that it was a representative body  of  those  affected  by  the
environmental clearance granted in favour of the appellant  and,  therefore,
it had the locus to challenge the decision taken by respondent No.2.

8.    In the counter affidavit filed by the  appellant,  several  objections
were taken to the maintainability of the petition.  It was pleaded  that  in
the garb of  filing  a  Public  Interest  Litigation,  respondent  No.1  was
seeking annulment of the order passed by  NEAA  and  such  relief  could  be
claimed only  by  filing  a  regular  petition  under  Article  226  of  the
Constitution, which is required to be heard and decided by a  Single  Judge.
The  appellant  also  referred  to  the   pendency   of   Writ   Petition(C)
No.5534/2007 before the Chhattisgarh High Court and pleaded  that  the  writ
petition filed before the Delhi High Court was an abuse of  the  process  of
the Court.   Another plea taken by the appellant was that the  entire  cause
of action for filing the petition had accrued in Chhattisgarh and the  Delhi
High Court did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the petition filed  by
respondent No.1.

9.    The Division Bench of the  High  Court  did  take  cognizance  of  the
objections taken by the appellant but did not deal with the same except  the
one relating to  territorial  jurisdiction  of  the  Delhi  High  Court  and
overruled the same. On merits,  the  Division  Bench  relied  upon  judgment
dated 14.9.2009 passed by a coordinate  Bench  in  LPA  No.277/2009  Vedanta
Alumina Ltd. v. Prafulla Samantra and others wherein it  was  held  that  an
organisation, which is working in the area  and  is  closely  following  the
issue of setting up of industries and  impact  thereof  on  the  environment
falls in the category of  a  ‘person  aggrieved’  and  concluded  that  NEAA
committed serious error by dismissing the appeal of respondent No.1  on  the
ground of lack of locus.

10.   We have heard  Dr.  A.M.  Singhvi,  learned  senior  counsel  for  the
appellant and Shri Sanjay Parikh, learned counsel for  respondent  No.1  and
perused the record.

11.   Shri Parikh made strenuous efforts to  convince  the  Court  that  the
hypertechnical objection raised by the appellant should not  be  entertained
and in view of the judgment rendered by  the  Division  Bench  of  the  High
Court in Vedanta Alumina Ltd. v.  Prafulla  Samantra  (supra),  the  special
leave petition should be dismissed.

12.   We have considered the submission of the learned counsel but have  not
felt impressed.

13.   Chapter 3 Part  A  of  the  Delhi  High  Court  Rules  contains  rules
relating to the practice of the High Court in  the  hearing  of  causes  and
other matters. Part B contains rules  relating  to  the  jurisdiction  of  a
Single Judge and of Benches of the Court. The relevant clauses of Rule 1  of
Part B read as under:

                                   “Part B

                JURISDICTION OF A SINGLE JUDGE AND OF BENCHES
                                OF THE COURT

           1. Cases ordinarily to be heard by a single Judge—Subject to the
           provisos hereinafter set forth the following  classes  of  cases
           shall ordinarily be heard and disposed of  by  a  Judge  setting
           alone:

           (i) to (xvii)          xxx              xxx              xxx

           (xviii) (a) Application or petition under  Article  226  of  the
           Constitution of India for the issue of any directions, orders or
           writs in the nature of Mandamus,  prohibition,  quo-warranto  or
           certiorari for the enforcement of fundamental  rights  conferred
           by Part III of the  Constitution  of  India  or  for  any  other
           purpose, except:

                 (i) Petitions where  vires  of  Acts  or  statutory  rules,
                 regulations, or bye-laws are challenged.

                 (ii) Petitions where personal liberty is involved.

                 (iii)  Petitions  pertaining  to  all  Revenue/tax  matters
                 including entertainment taxes, except Municipal Tax.

                 (iv) Petitions arising from the orders  of  the  Board  for
                 Industrial and Financial Reconstruction/Appellate Authority
                 for Industrial  and  Financial  Reconstruction  or  seeking
                 directions to them; and

                 (v) Petitions pertaining to Public Interest litigation.

                 (vi) Petitions pertaining to the award to Tenders.

                 (vii) Petitions relating to Co-operative Societies.

                 (viii) Petitions being service matters of Armed  Forces  of
                 the Union.

                 (ix) Petitions arising out of Land Acquisition.

                 (x) Petitions concerning orders passed by the High Court on
                 the administrative side.

           Provided that as regards pending cases, the learned single Judge
           may hear the part-heard matters.

           Explanation: The preliminary hearing  for  admission  and  final
           disposal of applications and  petitions  pertaining  to  matters
           mentioned in clause (i) to  (x)  of  sub-rule  (xviii)(a)  above
           shall however be before a Bench  of  two  Judges  and  before  a
           Single Bench when there is no sitting of Division Bench.”

Rule 4, which relates to jurisdiction of a Bench of two Judges,  also  reads
as under:
           “4. All cases to be disposed of by a Bench of two Judges save as
           provided by law or by these rules—Save as provided by law or  by
           these rules or by special order of the Chief Justice, all  cases
           shall be heard and disposed of by a Bench of two Judges.”

14.   A bare reading of the above reproduced provisions makes it clear  that
the petition filed by respondent No.1 for quashing  order  dated  31.12.2008
could be heard only by Single Bench of the Delhi High  Court.   However,  by
disguising the petition as a Public  Interest  Litigation,  respondent  No.1
succeeded in getting the same listed before the Division Bench of  the  High
Court. Unfortunately, the Division Bench did not  deal  with  the  objection
raised by the appellant to the maintainability  of  the  petition  filed  by
respondent No.1 and proceeded to decide the matter on merits which,  in  our
considered view, was legally impermissible.

15.   We are not suggesting that  respondent  No.1  had  indulged  in  Bench
hunting but it needs to be emphasised that every Bench  of  the  High  Court
should scrupulously  follow  the  relevant  rules  and  should  not  violate
statutory provisions specifying its jurisdiction, else the sanctity  of  the
rules relating to distribution of causes between the  Single,  the  Division
Bench and larger Benches will be lost.

16.   In the result, the appeal is allowed and the  impugned  order  is  set
aside. The writ petition filed  by  respondent  No.1  shall  now  be  listed
before a Single Judge of the High Court, who shall decide the  same  without
being influenced by the observations contained  in  the  impugned  order  or
this order.

17.   While disposing of the  appeal  in  the  manner  indicated  above,  we
consider it necessary to make it clear that this  Court  has  not  expressed
any opinion on the merits of the case and  the  parties  shall  be  free  to
advance all legally permissible arguments before the  learned  Single  Judge
of the High Court.



                                       …………………………J.
                                             (G.S.SINGHVI)



                                                             …………………………J.
                                             (V. GOPALA GOWDA)
NEW DELHI;
SEPTEMBER  19,  2013.
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