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A Division Bench of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Court has set aside a stay order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) prohibiting the Telangana government from proceeding with work on the Rs 80,000 crore Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project.
The Principal Bench of the NGT had stayed work on the project on October 5, after it was argued that the state lacked the requisite environmental clearances required for a project of such nature.
The Telangana government then chose to appeal the decision before the High Court. Represented by Advocate General D Prakash Reddy, the state had contended that the Principal Bench of the NGT lacked territorial jurisdiction, and that the matter was barred by limitation.
In an order passed yesterday, the High Court Bench of Acting Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Uma Devi agreed that matters of jurisdiction and limitation were not satisfactorily dealt with by the NGT. It then remanded the matter back to the Principal Bench for further consideration.
“We are satisfied that failure of the Principal Bench, NGT, New Delhi to examine the jurisdictional issues raised by the 50 petitioner i.e that the O.A. was filed beyond the period prescribed in Section 14(3) of the 2010 Act and its proviso, and it lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the present O.A…”
Senior counsel Vedula Venkataramana, appearing for the original applicant, had urged the Court not to exercise its discretionary power under Article 226, as the state had the option to approach the Supreme Court. However, the Court did not agree.
The interim order, which permits the government to continue work as far as the drinking water component of the Kaleshwaram project is concerned, prohibits any work on the irrigation component until requisite clearances are obtained.
The order also goes on to say that encroachment on forest land in connection with either of the two components is not permissible, and that the NGT can intervene at any time, should such violations be brought to light.
“Works if any undertaken by, and on behalf of, the State of Telangana shall be confined strictly to the drinking water component of the project. Violation of the aforesaid directions can be brought both to the notice of this Court, and to the NGT, by the first respondent/applicant. It would be open to the Principal Bench, NGT, even before it rules on its jurisdiction to entertain the O.A, to take necessary action against the petitioner for such violations, if any brought to its notice, including directing them to stop all construction activity even in relation to the drinking water component of the project.”
The Court has also granted leave to the original applicant to seek interim relief from the NGT afresh.
Read the order: