The Bombay High Court in Goa on Tuesday issued notice on a petition challenging two administrative orders issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that established Special Benches at New Delhi to hear and decide cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the NGT's Western Zone Bench, including cases from the State of Goa..A bench of Justices MS Sonak and RN Laddha issued notice to the western and northern benches of the NGT and requested them to submit their response by March 16.The plea filed by NGO Goa Foundation contested the constitution of NGT special benches and the alleged seizure of authority of the Western Zone bench by the Principal Bench at New Delhi..The administrative order of September 6, 2021 by NGT designated the Northern Zone bench as a ‘special bench’ for all other zonal benches except for the Northern Zone, to operate once a month per zone.The subsequent order of January 4, 2022 set up two special benches (Central Zone bench and the Northern Zone bench) to act as special benches for the Western Zone only, to operate four days a week. .According to the plea by NGO Goa Foundation, both orders were vague, arbitrary, and issued in contravention of the NGT Act. It alleged that the special benches were contributing to the Tribunal's arbitrary and ad hoc functioning, which had a significant impact on citizens' rights to address environmental concerns and their access to justice.It was also submitted that it is only the Central government which has the power to specify the places of ordinary setting of the NGT [i.e. a Regional Bench], or specify or alter the jurisdiction of any Bench..Reportedly, trouble for litigants from Goa began in 2017 when the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF & CC) issued a notification arbitrarily allocating Goa from the Western Zone (Pune) to the Northern Zone (Delhi). This order was eventually set aside by an order of the Bombay High Court wherein it observed:“At a time and in an age when Courts are considering branching out so that litigants are put to less inconvenience and less hardship, it strikes us as utterly extraordinary that any government should, in the guise of its own inconvenience or convenience, seek to shift a Tribunal several thousand kilometres away and then claim that this is for the greater public good. Indeed it is not. There is no valid or rational basis for clubbing Goa, situated in the west, and well to the south of Mumbai, with territories in the north, and assigning the jurisdiction over these to the principal seat in New Delhi.”.The present petition claimed that the administrative orders were an indirect method to bypass this very ruling of the court which established the unique jurisdiction of the sitting Western Zone bench over all environmental concerns in Goa..According to the petitioners, citizens of Goa who are pursuing environmental issues have suffered due to the Western bench's irregular functioning since 2017. This itself was a result of attempts to shift Goa's jurisdiction from the sitting Western Zone bench to the Northern Zone bench, delays in the Western Zone bench's constitution, and the non-appointment of judicial and expert members at the place of sitting in Pune.It was highlighted that cases from Goa accounted for a majority of the matters before the Western Zone Bench, even when the jurisdiction of the said bench included Maharashtra and Gujarat.The Court’s attention was also drawn to the fact that since the Northern Bench began hearing the Western Bench's cases, the number of Western Zone cases actually heard by the NGT in the period February 2018 to August 2021 decreased significantly, with approximately 78 percent of the cases being adjourned and only 22 percent of the cases being heard, according to the causelists posted on the NGT's website..The plea sought a temporary injunction against the impugned order as well as access to the High Court for environmental remedies. It also prayed for the administrative orders to be set aside and for the court to make an order expediting the correct setup of the western bench..The Court proposed to consider the issue of interim relief on March 16 and requested the respondents to submit their response, not only to the larger issues raised in this petition, but also on the aspect of interim relief.