Deccan Chronicle

Apex court quashes NGT stay on Rushikonda Hills

Deccan Chronicle.| V. Kamalakara Rao

Published on: June 1, 2022 | Updated on: June 1, 2022

HC order will prevail over directions from tribunals including NGT: SC

Andhra Pradesh tourism cottages near the Rushikonda beach. (Representational Photo:DC)

Andhra Pradesh tourism cottages near the Rushikonda beach. (Representational Photo:DC)

Visakhapatnam/New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the order of the High Court within their respective territorial jurisdiction will prevail over the orders of all tribunals including the National Green Tribunal concerning related issues.

Making it clear that the development of the resort will be confined to the area where the structures of the earlier resort were situated, the court, however, made it clear that it will not create any equity in favour of the developers.

The top court "quashed and set-aside" the green tribunal’s order setting up another expert committee to go into the allegations of damage to the environment including the "shaving off" of a hill located in Rushikonda by the developer of a resort near the eco-sensitive zone in Visakhapatnam seashore.

Noting that officials of the state government are placed in a quandary as to which order to follow –of the high court or the NGT -- a vacation bench comprising Justice BR Gavai and Justice Hima Kohli said the order of the "constitutional court" (high court) will prevail over the orders of the tribunals including NGT vis-à-vis "the creation of a statute with a specific mandate relating to the environment and this is considered to be a placed at higher pedestal compared to other tribunals."

The top court’s vacation bench ruled so when lawyer Balaji Srinivasan appearing for respondent YSRC’s Lok Sabha member Raghuraju Kanumuru urged the court not to quash the NGT order. He said the green tribunal was created by a statute and carried with it a much larger mandate relating to environmental issues.

He cited top court judgments - practically suggesting that green tribunals are distinct from other tribunals vis-a-vis its powers and jurisdiction.

The vacation bench quashed and set aside the order of the green tribunal – that had set up a second expert committee over and above the functioning of an earlier expert committee set up by the tribunal and which permitted the current developer of the resort to go ahead with the construction activity limited to the area that was occupied by the structures of earlier resort and the levelled land.

The earlier expert committee that was set up by the NGT had given findings favouring the new developer of the resort at the Visakhapatnam seashore.

The court permitted the respondent Raghu Ramakrishnaraju to implead himself in the proceedings on the issue before Andhra Pradesh high court.

Meanwhile, according to APTDC officials, the state government had allotted 69.65 acres of land in favour of the tourism department in the 1980s. APTDC built Haritha resorts in 2006, covering an area of 4439 square metres. Now a proposal is to develop a tourism project in its place.

"The tourism project is currently in Stage-1. Land survey and road connectivity works are being carried out on 9.88 acres only in Revenue Survey No. 19 in the Rushikonda hill area. Construction of the buildings is yet to begin," said an APTDC official.

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