Although the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Bench at Delhi for the Northern Zone is referred to as the "Principal Bench", it does not imply that the NGT at Delhi has superior powers over other NGT Benches, the Madras High Court recently observed (K Saravanan v. National Green Tribunal and anr)..A Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and T Thamliselvi further opined that the reference to the NGT Bench at Delhi as the "Principal" Bench appears to be a misnomer since the NGT Act has not envisioned giving superior powers to any particular Bench. ."Each Bench will have jurisdiction over a specified area and there is no superior power to any Bench. Though in the notification dated 10.08.2017, the Northern Zone Bench at Delhi is called Principal Bench, it is prima facie contrary to the scheme of the Act as the Act does not speak about any Principal Bench. The Notification itself may not be in consonance with the Act, terming one Bench as Principal Bench", the Court said..The Court opined that all decisions taken by NGT Benches in any of the five zones would have a pan-India effect."It cannot be said that only if the issue is decided by the Bench at Delhi, it will have Pan-India effect," the Court said..The Court, therefore, proceeded to stay an NGT, Southern Zone Bench (at Chennai) order to transfer a certain case to the NGT Bench at Delhi citing that since the matter involved pan-India issues, the "Principal" Bench of the NGT was better suited to examine the same. .The High Court noted that there are five NGT Benches, with the NGT at Delhi being given the jurisdiction over disputes arising from the States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, the National capital territory of Delhi and the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli..The Bench at New Delhi has only got territorial jurisdiction with respect to cases arising from these specified States and not on a national level, the High Court observed..Vesting of power only with the NGT, Northern Zone (Delhi) Bench has not been contemplated in the NGT Act, even if power is concentrated at Delhi, the Court said. .The jurisdiction of every Bench has been distinctly laid out to enable citizens to approach NGT forums constituted nearby and not to make citizens travel to New Delhi, spending huge amounts of money, which is not possible for every citizen in every issue, the Court reasoned. .To interpret it otherwise would amount to denying access to justice, "as is being done in other matters" the Court added.."If such a procedure is adopted, it would amount to denying access to justice as is being done in other matters. Every effort is being taken to deliver justice at the door steps of citizens. Grama Nyayalayas are sought to be established to deliver justice to rural people in a quick and easy manner. That is the reason why Courts are being established at every taluk level. It is extended upto High Court level by establishment of Benches for the convenience of local public. People are expecting justice delivery at their door steps to be extended upto the highest level. The very purpose of establishing the Benches of the Tribunal in each zone is to decide the issues arising out of the specified States," the order stated..Therefore, it concluded that the NGT, Southern Zone Bench's findings were prima facie not in consonance with the NGT Act. The order under challenge was, therefore, stayed. ."There is no Pan India concept available in the statute. In view of that, the order passed by the Tribunal is liable to be stayed and accordingly stayed," the Court said. .Notice was issued in the matter and was posted for July 16 for the filing of a counter. .The main case pertained to an Official Memorandum (OM) dated November 11, 2020. The said OM stated that no fresh environmental impact assessment is required where there is a change of coal sources (imported coal to domestic coal or domestic coal to imported coal or blending of both coals) by industries for use in thermal power plants. .Contending that it will have huge impact on the environment, the petitioner had challenged the said OM before the NGT. The NGT had initially issued notice in the matter in February..However, in June, the NGT, Southern Bench opined that the NGT at Delhi can exercise powers over all of India and that the Principal Bench ought to pass orders on the pan-India issue involved. It, therefore, transmitted the case papers to the NGT Bench at Delhi, which was challenged before the Madras High Court..The petitioner contended that all NGT Benches are equal and that to allow the transfer of the case would make it appear as if the NGT at Delhi has appellate jurisdiction. The move would create an artificial hierarchy, which is unknown under the NGT Act, unwarranted and illegal..Finding prima facie merit in the argument, the Court also agreed that, "under the scheme of the National Green Tribunal Act, there is no question of any appellate jurisdiction.".The matter would be taken up next on July 16.