Orissa HC Sets Aside NGT Order On Committee To Probe Sundargarh Industries

Cuttack: The Orissa High Court has set aside an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to probe allegations of violation of statutory rules by 11 industrial establishments in Sundargarh district causing adverse impact on the environment.

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NGT’s East Zone bench had constituted a high-level committee on November 22, 2023 to probe the matter after Sudhansu Sekhar Patra and other residents of Sundargarh region, filed a petition alleging that the industrial establishments lack requisite pollution control devices installed within the plant area.

Utkal Metallics, which operates a sponge iron unit at Kalunga Industrial Estate in Sundargarh, filed a counter petition alleging that the tribunal had passed the order without allowing it to put forth its position.

“The Amicus Curiae who is appointed by the NGT to be a part of the committee, is an advocate who appears for many parties especially for whistleblowers before the NGT. Hence its inclusion in the committee is a clear case of conflict of interest,” counsel for Utkal Metallics was quoted by TNIE as having alleged.

Acting on this, the single judge bench of Justice S K Panigrahi in an order on January 4 said that the NGT should have given an opportunity of hearing to all the parties before constituting such committee and passing order for inspecting the petitioner’s industry.

There is a clear violation of natural justice while passing the aforesaid order for constituting the committee, Justice SK Panigrahi said adding, “The committee should have comprised an independent person in place of the Amicus Curiae so that the apprehension of bias or conflict of interest issue could have been avoided.”

“Considering the above, this court deems it appropriate to remit the matter back to the NGT for fresh hearing giving opportunity to Utkal Metallics,” the Court said. The order dated 22.11.2023 passed by the NGT is set aside, the HC added.

The tribunal had constituted a committee to inspect industrial establishments and submit a report within two months.

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