Goa Assembly rules against setting up NGT circuit bench

Cabral also said that as many as 70% of the cases filed before the Pune bench of the Tribunal, which entertains green petitions from the country's Western Zone, were filed by litigants from Goa. File photo.

Goa's lawmakers on Friday ruled against a motion seeking the setting up of a circuit bench of the National Green Tribunal in the coastal state, even as state Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral expressed apprehension that if a circuit bench was set up in Goa, more cases related to violation of green laws would be filed.

Cabral also said that as many as 70% of the cases filed before the Pune bench of the Tribunal, which entertains green petitions from the country's Western Zone, were filed by litigants from Goa.

"There are more than 300 cases filed by Goan litigants before the Pune bench, which comprises 70% of the total cases. Even a state as big as Maharashtra does not have this many cases... if we bring the circuit bench to Goa, the proportion of cases will go even higher,” Cabral told the Goa Legislative Assembly, before the motion was defeated.

Earlier, Congress MLA Aleixo Reginaldo had said that since it was a logistical hassle to local litigants as well as government lawyers to travel all the way to Pune, the central government had requested setting up a circuit bench of the Tribunal in Goa to ease their hardship.

Cabral said that the provisions of the NGT act allows for the Tribunal to hold hearings at specific locations, if asked for by petitioners.

"Therefore the question of the state government requesting a circuit bench of the Tribunal does not arise," Cabral said.

“If the judges deem it necessary, they can hold sittings in Goa. The need of a circuit bench, therefore, is not the need of the hour,” the Environment told the Goa legislative assembly.

Two years ago, on former Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar's plea, the central government had changed the jurisdiction of NGT-related cases from Pune to Delhi, a move which was severely criticised by the Opposition as well as green activists in the coastal state.

While Parrikar had cited poor connectivity to Pune and lack of state government-run boarding facilities for its petitioners in Pune, activists had alleged that Parrikar's intentions were to deter litigants, who would have to travel five times the distance to national capital to attend hearings.

The controversial notification was later struck down by the Bombay High Court bench in Panaji.

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