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Tribunal trashes Goa coastal body order against Vedanta firm Sesa

The National Green Tribunal has set aside a Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) order which had held that Vedanta Group firm and iron-ore miner Sesa Goa had illegally expanded its jetties set up for loading ore in the northern district of the state. A bench headed by National Green Tribunal Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also set aside the March 2011 directions of the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority to the company to stop all activity over the alleged illegal part of the jetties and to remove the unauthorised extended portions, saying the order was violative of principles of natural justice.

The National Green Tribunal, however, granted liberty to GCZMA to commence its proceedings against the company from ‘the stage of show cause notice’ and proceed thereafter in accordance with the directions given by the tribunal. ‘... there has been denial of fair opportunity to the applicants (Sesa Goa and others). The principles of natural justice have been violated.

‘We set aside the order dated 4 March 2011, we grant liberty to the Authority to commence its proceedings from the stage of show cause notice/notices and proceed in accordance with the directions (procedure) afore-contained..,’ the bench, also comprising judicial member Justice P Jyothimani, said.

The Tribunal set aside the authority’s decision after observing that the GCZMA had never conducted an inspection to see if there was any unauthorised expansion of the jetties nor had it supplied to the company all the material it had relied upon to pass the March 2011 order.

The bench also observed that there was non-application of mind by the GCZMA and added that ‘we are unable to hold that the procedure adopted by the authorities completely eliminates the element of arbitrariness’. The Tribunal also laid down the procedure to be followed by the GCZMA in all such cases in the future.

The six stages of the procedure would start with the issuance of show cause notice and includes giving time to the affected party to file a reply, providing it with all the relevant material relied upon, giving the company a fair opportunity to put forward its case and then pass a reasoned order which deals with the grounds raised by the affected party, the bench directed the GCZMA.

The National Green Tribunal ’s order came on Sesa Goa’s appeal against the March 2011 order and directions of the GCZMA. Sesa Goa in its appeal had contended that it had not been provided with certain documents by the authority.
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