Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

 CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 5328-5329 OF 2016

 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1877 OF 2023
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 409-410 OF 2021
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 407-408 OF 2021
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 2370-2371 OF 2021
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 10239 OF 2018
1. Special leave granted in SLP (C) No. 12945/2018. In all these appeals, all
respondents were served and had entered appearance. The original applicant
before the National Green Tribunal (hereafter ‘NGT’) too had been served; an
affidavit was filed on his behalf. He was however, not represented on the date of
hearing. With consent of counsel for the parties, all appeals were heard finally.
2. These appeals, under Section 22 of the National Green Tribunal Act,
2010 (hereafter ‘NGT Act’) and appeals by special leave1
, question various
 of the National Green Tribunal which directed that the Nagar Palika
Parishad, Mandsaur (hereafter ‘Parishad’), should desist from granting sanction
to develop and construct properties in the vicinity of the “Teliya Talab”
(hereafter ‘talab’), a man-made lake or reservoir in the city of Mandsaur.
3. The original applicant, Dinesh Joshi, preferred an application before the
Central Bench of NGT, seeking directions for protection and conservation of the
talab, alleging that construction permissions had been granted by the
authorities, i.e., the Parishad and the State, to various private parties, and
allowed construction upon a water body, resulting in depletion of the lake’s
area, thus reducing availability of surface water. It was also further alleged that
untreated domestic waste and industrial effluents were being discharged or
dumped into the talab. The Parishad and the Town and Country Planning
Department (hereafter ‘TCD’) filed replies, upon being issued notices.
4. The NGT, by its order dated 17.02.2016 (referred to hereafter as ‘the
main order’) took note of the Parishad’s reply, as well as that of the TCD and
1 Against order dated 10.7.2018 in WP No. 3484/2018 (PIL) of the Madhya Pradesh High
2 Dated 17.02.2016 in OA No. 100/2015; dated 19.04.2016 in RA No. 3/2016; dated
21.09.2020 in OA No. 17/2018; dated 18.11.2020 in RA No. 8 & 9/2020 and order dated 25.11.2020
in MA Nos. 9, 11 & 14/2020
relied on a ‘revenue trace map’ to say that the “Maximum Water Line”
(hereafter ‘MWL’) had been shown and the land over which construction
permission was given, i.e., Khasra. No. 1238, fell within the “Full Water Line”
(hereafter ‘FWL’) as well as the MWL. It was observed that if the water was
allowed to reach the maximum level, the lands would be submerged, as
according to the NGT, they fell within the catchment area.
5. The appellants (except the appellant in the appeal by special leave)
preferred review petitions, pointing to the fact that they had been given
permission by the Parishad much earlier, and also drawing to the notice of the
NGT that a Development Plan had been finally sanctioned in 2003, in terms of
which a green area abutted the talab, beyond which a public road had been
sanctioned and built, and further that their lands lay beyond this road. It was
argued that in these circumstances, the NGT should review its order, as they
were not heard before the main order was made.
6. The appellant in C.A. No. 5328-29/2016 (hereafter called ‘the society’)
additionally urged that the lands owned by it were allotted a long time earlier to
it, and that its use for construction of residential units to its members (who were
workers, belonging to the poorer segments of society) became a subject matter
of a previous litigation, whereby the state authorities had cancelled the
conversion certificate, on the ground that the lands fell in the submergence area.
The society filed a suit, which was decreed by the trial court3
; the state’s appeal
3 By order dated 24.12.1994 passed by the Civil Judge First Class, Mandsaur in CS No.
was dismissed4
 and its second appeal before the Madhya Pradesh High Court,
met the same fate, i.e., dismissal5
. It was also pointed out that the special leave
petition filed by the State too, was dismissed6
 by this court.
7. The NGT, however, dismissed all the review petitions before it, by the
impugned orders. On the basis of certain representations and letters, the
Collector, District Mandsaur constituted a committee of seven officials from the
revenue department for the purposes of investigating and submitting the latest
report with respect to the boundaries of the talab. Based upon the report
received, the Collector issued an order on 06.06.2017. The material portion of
that order reads as follows:
“the aforesaid investigation team got the demarcation done vide the Land
Record District Mandsaur Letter Number 1316/MP/2016 dated 18-05-2016
and from team comprising 21 officers/employees on 04-06-2016 and 06-06-
2016 and punching, report and map were submitted. As per the Panchnama,
and Report and for clarifying of the facts/removal of errors mentioned in the
application concerned with the Applicant regarding MWL of Telia Talab,
situated at Kaba Mandsaur the Demarcation team notified the MWL limits
of Telia talab to the employees of Municipal Council and Water Resources
at the spot and permanent boundary signs were established, which are
mentioned in the map with Green ink. After MWL signs, the colonies are not
in submerged area. The survey numbers mentioned above the green ink of
the map are recognised beyond the limits of MWL. After marking MWL
signs, the permission of construction can be granted.
I examined the case and minutely perused the aforesaid investigation report,
Panchnama, and map submitted by the Committee constituted by this Court.
Being consented (sic satisfied) with the report of investigation team and as
per the Mandsaur Development Scheme 2001, the MWL. (Maximum Water
Level) Limit signs which are mentioned in Green ink and the demarcation
map of MWL limits of Telia Talab in the report of Investigation Team, as the
colonies situated outside the Signs are not submerged and hence,
4 By order dated 18.05.2001 passed by the Additional District Judge in RCA No. 80A/2001
5 By order dated 23.06.2011 of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in SA No. 415/2001
6 By order dated 08.02.2016 in SLP (CC) No. 2066/2016
construction permission can be given to the colonies situated outside the
signs. This map shall be a part of this order.”
8. The report submitted to the Collector and order made by him became the
subject matter of controversy before the NGT. An application (No. 17/2018),
objecting to the correction of the submergence area and the MWL, was filed by
the applicant who moved the earlier O.A. No. 100/2015. The applicant’s
grievance was that the NGT had prohibited any construction in the water bound
area and within limits of the MWL and FWL of the talab. The argument made
out was that the map prepared subsequently and taken on record by the
Collector's order dated 06.06.2017, could not be sustained. The Madhya Pradesh
Pollution Control Board in its reply stated that the alteration of the boundaries
of the talab did not fall within its jurisdiction. It was stated, however, that the
Board had issued notice to the Parishad from time to time to comply with
provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974
(hereafter ‘Water Act’). This was recorded by the NGT in its order. It was
further recorded that the Collector’s team had inspected the area and found that
10 colonies were existing within 3 kilometres from the talab, and further that
untreated sewage water was being discharged in it. By its order dated
21.09.2020 (hereafter ‘second order’) the NGT severely chastised the State, the
Parishad, and district revenue authorities, and directed them to immediately
proceed to demarcate the water body and the area which was previously within
the area of the water body, to ensure that it was not reduced in any manner. The
NGT also prohibited grant of permission for construction without the
demarcation of the area of the water bodies, and up to the MWL. It further
directed that the entire Khasra No. 1238 should be protected and that the water
body should not be disturbed.
Contentions of counsel for the parties
9. Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned senior counsel appearing for the society,
argued that the NGT’s impugned orders are erroneous on two counts. Firstly,
that it did not consider or deal with the fact that the portions of Khasra No.1238
was purchased by the society over four decades ago, with the hard-earned
money of its members, who were lowly paid workers. They had faced litigation
for over two and a half decades, when the conversion certificate issued to them,
was cancelled on the ground that the lands fell within the submergence area
(Doobkshetra). The society was constrained to file a suit for perpetual
injunction, where the state was impleaded; the state relied on the deposition of
an engineer from its irrigation department, who reiterated its stand. However, he
was unable to point to any document or material in support of the state’s
argument that the land fell within the submergence area. The state’s appeal was
rejected; the first appellate court noted the state’s stand, which was
contradictory, i.e., that the lands fell in the submergence area, and at the same
time, that they were required for some construction. The state’s second appeal,
and special leave petition were also rejected.
10. Ms. Arora urged, as the second limb of her submissions, that the doctrine
of finality of judgement and res judicata applied to the facts of this case. The
principle plays a vital role as it is based on a sound firm principle of public
policy. The doctrine of finality has evolved with the objective of preventing
unnecessary litigation under the colour and pretence of law. It also ensures an
end to litigation, in public interest. The state, and all its agencies were bound by
the decree of the courts, which had been confirmed up to this court. Learned
counsel submitted that the order dismissing the special leave petition also held
that the judgment of the High Court was justified.
11. Mr. A.N.S. Nadkarni and Mr. P.C. Sen, learned senior counsels, Mr.
Sumeer Sodhi, Ms. Pragati Neekhra, Mr. Amit Pai, and other counsel, appeared
for other appellants. Mr. Brijendra Chahar, learned senior counsel, and Mr.
Yogeshwaran, learned Additional Advocate General (AAG) for Madhya
Pradesh, appeared for the TCD and the Parishad respectively; and Mr. Saurabh
Mishra, AAG, appeared for the state of Madhya Pradesh. They supported the
submissions on behalf of the society, and urged that the NGT fell into serious
error in not considering that the TCD had published the Development/Master
Plan in 2001, which was finally approved on 12.05.2003. This forms the basis
for development of Mandsaur. The existence of the talab, its boundaries, and
the extent of its catchment area, were made known. No one objected to the plan,
which designated a green area immediately adjoining the talab, after which a
road was permitted. The development of residences and colonies was beyond
this road. These facts were known to the general public. In this background, the
applicant before the NGT persuaded it to issue orders based on a “trace” map,
which had not been finalised.
12. Learned counsel submitted that after much inter-departmental
correspondence between the Sub-Divisional Officer of Mandsaur, the Parishad
and the Water Resources Department, as well as the Collector, finally a letter
was addressed by the Sub-Divisional Officer, to the Collector, on 31.01.2022,
which disclosed that the map shown to the NGT, based on which, it made its
orders was
“not originally a map, but a proposed map to depict a situation if the FTL
of Teliya Talab were to be increased by one feet and which only bore the
signature of Shri. L.N. Badgotia, the Sub-Divisional Officer of the Water
Resources Department. This Map does not bear the signatures of any
authorized Revenue Officer. The Map that was presented by Shri Santosh
Rathore along with his request letter is in two pages and describes all
categories of land under the submergence area and which was presented to
the then collector on 03.07.2021 and the factual description was presented
to the then Collector. The then Collector then put the issue up for discussion
but he was transferred and because of which the discussion could not take
 On the basis of the various communications exchanged between the Chief
Municipal Officer, Nagar Palika Mandsaur, and the Water Resources
Department, what emerges clearly is that Map presented by Nagar Palika
Parishad before the Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (NGT) which was
singed by Shri. L.N. Badgotia, Sub Divisional Officer, of the Water
Resources Department, is not the original Map but only is descriptive of the
proposal in the year 2002 to increase the height of the dam by one feet. The
Map presented to me on 30.07.2021 by the Water Resources Department
bears the signatures of the Sub-Engineer, Water Resources Department,
Tehsildar, Revenue Inspector and Halka Patwari and this Map also has a
clear description of all of the areas that will come under the FTL and MWL
and hence this is the original map.”
13. It is pointed out that the relevant correspondence between the various
authorities and bodies, relating to the map furnished to the NGT, and its
accuracy, as well as the instructions issued on it, have been placed on record by
affidavit dated 01.11.2022, sworn to by the Chief Officer of the Parishad.
14. Learned counsel also submit that the very same issue, about the
boundaries of the Teliya Talab is again the subject matter of another litigation
before the NGT (i.e., Abhay Kumar Akolkar v. State of MP, O.A. No. 70/2022)
in which the tribunal is cognizant of the present appeals.
15. The contesting respondents (applicants in the original applications before
NGT), i.e., Mr. Dinesh Joshi and Mr. Alok Sharma, were not represented at the
time of hearing. However, they had filed replies and counter affidavits to some
of the appeals. Their consistent stand is that the NGT’s orders do not call for
interference. It is urged by them, the map of 1973-74, relied on by the NGT,
was supplied by the Parishad, which cannot now resile from its stand. It is also
stated that the existence of the Development Plan, was a matter of record, and
the NGT was aware of it. Moreover, it is pointed out that the Parishad did not
deny that untreated waste was being dumped into the talab.
Analysis and Conclusions
16. A plain reading of the main order by the NGT shows that it went by the
pleadings, and proceeded to pass orders on the basis of the trace map produced
before it. The NGT was aware that the applicant wished to interdict
development in the vicinity of the talab, for which sanction had been granted.
Yet, it did not feel the necessity of seeking particulars from the parties before it,
and whether any parties were likely to be affected by its orders. As a judicial
tribunal, bound by principles of natural justice, it ought to have impleaded, or at
least issued a public notice, about the pendency of litigation, and sought
intervention of those likely to be adversely affected. Its omission to take this
step, has resulted in prejudice to all the appellants before this court, who were
faced with drastic and serious consequences, because the sanction for
development or construction upon the lands owned, purchased or developed by
them, immediately became out of bounds.
17. Section 19 of the NGT Act pertinently provides as follows:
“19. Procedure and powers of Tribunal— (1) The Tribunal shall not be
bound by the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5
of 1908) but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Tribunal shall have power to
regulate its own procedure.
(3) The Tribunal shall also not be bound by the rules of evidence contained
in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872).
(4) The Tribunal shall have, for the purposes of discharging its functions
under this Act, the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), while trying a suit, in respect of
the following matters, namely—
(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining
him on oath;
(b) requiring the discovery and production of documents;
(c) receiving evidence on affidavits;
(d) subject to the provisions of Sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence
Act, 1872 (1 of 1872), requisitioning any public record or document or copy
of such record or document from any office;
(e) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
(f) reviewing its decision;
(g) dismissing an application for default or deciding it ex parte;
(h) setting aside any order of dismissal of any application for default or any
order passed by it ex parte;
(i) pass an interim order (including granting an injunction or stay) after
providing the parties concerned an opportunity to be heard, on any
application made or appeal filed under this Act;
(j) pass an order requiring any person to cease and desist from committing
or causing any violation of any enactment specified in Schedule I;
(k) any other matter which may be prescribed.
(5) All proceedings before the Tribunal shall be deemed to be the judicial
proceedings within the meaning of Sections 193, 219 and 228 for the
purposes of Section 196 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) and the
Tribunal shall be deemed to be a civil court for the purposes of Section 195
and Chapter XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974).”
18. A plain reading of Section 19 clarifies that though not bound by the Code
of Civil Procedure, the NGT is nevertheless bound by principles of natural
justice. It is a judicial tribunal, exclusively tasked with the duty of deciding
environmental disputes and causes; its remit includes wide ranging powers. In
these circumstances, the NGT had to take into consideration that the nature of
its directions meant that all those living or owning land near the talab, who had
obtained sanctions from the Parishad and the TCD, were condemned unheard.
19. The second aspect is that when some of the appellants approached NGT,
in review proceedings, those review petitions were summarily rejected. Again,
these orders cannot be sustained, because they do not disclose any application
of mind to the existence of the Development Plan, which had permitted
development of the disputed areas; the orders in review also do not advert to or
deal with the peculiar circumstances, concerning the society’s plot, on which a
previous litigation had been fought, ending in a decree against the state. Before
this court, the Parishad has categorically deposed, and produced several
documents, in support of its stand that the map placed before, and considered by
the NGT, was only a draft, or proposal to increase the area of the talab.
20. It is too well settled that parties are bound by the principle of finality,
which results in a decree by a competent court, acquiring a final and binding
nature, especially where it is confirmed concurrently and upheld by the highest
court of the land. In Pradeep Kumar Maskara v. State of West Bengal7
aspect was stated, in the following terms:
“24. At the very outset, we are of the view that the Tribunal has no
jurisdiction to differ with the decision given by the Calcutta High Court in
the writ petition filed by the appellants. The Tribunal further committed
grave error in following the decision in Ganga Dhar Singh case [Ganga
Dhar Singh v. State of W.B., (1997) 2 CHN 140] treating it to be a Division
Bench judgment of the Calcutta High Court when as a matter of fact the
decision in Ganga Dhar Singh case [Ganga Dhar Singh v. State of W.B.,
(1997) 2 CHN 140] was decided by a Single Judge of the High Court. Even
the judgment passed [Pradip Kumar Maskara v. State of W.B., Civil
Revision No. 3465 (W) of 1984, decided on 8-11-1992 (Cal)] in the
appellant's writ petition filed in 1984 was neither considered nor
25. In the background of these facts, in our considered opinion, when the
judgment rendered by the Calcutta High Court in the case of the appellants
and the said decision having not been quashed or set aside by a larger
Bench of the High Court or by this Court, the Tribunal ought not to have
refused to follow the order of the High Court.
26. It is well settled that even if the decision on a question of law has been
reversed or modified by subsequent decision of a superior court in any other
case it shall not be a ground for review of such judgment merely because a
subsequent judgment of the Single Judge has taken contrary view. That does
not confer jurisdiction upon the Tribunal to ignore the judgment and
direction of the High Court given in the case of the appellants.”
21. This court has also ruled, in Lekh Raj v. Ranjit Singh8
 that subsequent
changes in law, cannot divest parties of the benefit derived by them in a
litigation that attained finality, through a decree:
“21. If the rights of the parties had already been crystallised then, in our
opinion, subsequent change in law would not take away such rights which
had attained finality due to lis coming to an end inter se the parties prior to
such change.”
22. In another judgment, pertinent to the facts of this case, the state invoked
its revisional power to nullify the effect of orders which had attained finality
7 (2015) 2 SCC 653: [2014] 13 SCR 540
8 (2018) 12 SCC 750: [2017] 7 SCR 542
and were inuring in favour of private parties. It was held that such action was
without authority of law in Ibrahimpatnam Taluk Vyavasaya Coolie
Sangham v. K. Suresh Reddy9
, where the court considered the provisions of the
Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1950.
The provision in Section 50-B(4) empowered the statutory authority to exercise
suo motu revisional power at any time. The Court held that:
“9. … Use of the words ‘at any time’ in sub-section (4) of Section 50-B of
the Act only indicates that no specific period of limitation is prescribed
within which the suo motu power could be exercised reckoning or starting
from a particular date advisedly and contextually. Exercise of suo motu
power depended on facts and circumstances of each case. In cases of fraud,
this power could be exercised within a reasonable time from the date of
detection or discovery of fraud. While exercising such power, several
factors need to be kept in mind such as effect on the rights of the third
parties over the immovable property due to passage of considerable time,
change of hands by subsequent bona fide transfers, the orders attaining
finality under the provisions of other Acts (such as the Land Ceiling Act). …
Use of the words ‘at any time’ in sub-section (4) of Section 50-B of the Act
cannot be rigidly read letter by letter. It must be read and construed
contextually and reasonably. If one has to simply proceed on the basis of the
dictionary meaning of the words ‘at any time’, the suo motu power under
sub-section (4) of Section 50-B of the Act could be exercised even after
decades and then it would lead to anomalous position leading to uncertainty
and complications seriously affecting the rights of the parties, that too, over
immovable properties. Orders attaining finality and certainty of the rights of
the parties accrued in the light of the orders passed must have sanctity.
Exercise of suo motu power ‘at any time’ only means that no specific period
such as days, months or years are not (sic) prescribed reckoning from a
particular date. But that does not mean that ‘at any time’ should be
unguided and arbitrary. In this view, ‘at any time’ must be understood as
within a reasonable time depending on the facts and circumstances of each
case in the absence of prescribed period of limitation.”
The above judgment was followed in State of Andhra Pradesh v. T. Yadagiri
Reddy10 and Sulochana Chandrakant Galande v. Pune Municipal Transport11
9 (2003) 7 SCC 667: [2003] Supp 2 SCR 698
10 (2008) 16 SCC 299: [2008] 16 SCR 792
11 (2010) 8 SCC 467: [2010] 9 SCR 476
23. In view of the above, it is held that the argument of the society (i.e.,
appellant in C.A. No. 5328-29/2016) is merited. The judgments of the courts in
its favour, clearly reveal that the 1.4 hectares owned by it, for which conversion
(from agricultural to non-agricultural use) was sanctioned, was sought to be
cancelled, on the ground that the land, fell within the submergence area. The
history of the previous litigation – which the NGT was seized with – reveals
that the land forming part of Khasra No. 1248, owned by the society, was
directly in issue in a litigation to which the state was a party, and in which it
lost. That decree was affirmed by all the courts. When the NGT was made
aware of this fact, it chose to ignore it. Without a review, or any known process
by which a decree concerning the same facts could be re-opened, the NGT
could not have rejected the society’s contentions. The society’s appeal,
therefore, requires to succeed.
24. As regards to the other appeals, this court notes that the NGT did not
advert to any facts, such as the existence of the Development/Master Plan, or
the green area, and the road, after which the plots were sought to be developed,
although these were expressly brought to its notice, in the review proceedings.
Furthermore, this court has also been appraised of the fact that the inquiry by
the revenue authorities, after the second order was made, has now resulted in
awareness on the part of the Collector, and the Parishad, that the map on which
the NGT based its main order, was only a proposal and not a final map.
Moreover, a fresh litigation (O.A. No. 70/2022) is also pending. In these
circumstances, it would be appropriate that the other appeals too are allowed,
and the NGT considers the issue, afresh in O.A. No. 70/2022, and ensures that
the precise boundaries of the talab are ascertained by a properly constituted
25. In view of the above, the following directions are issued:
(a) C.A. No. 5328-29/2016 is allowed. The society’s rights, title, and interest
in respect of the land purchased by it, for which construction permission was
granted, and in respect of which decree was made by the Civil Judge First
Class, Mandsaur in C.S. No. 524A/88 dated 24.12.1994, ultimately
confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in S.A. No. 415/2001, by
order dated 23.06.2011 shall not be disturbed or affected, in any manner.
(b) All other appeals are allowed with the direction that the NGT shall
consider the question of precise boundaries of the talab, after considering the
report of a committee, in the pending proceedings, i.e., O.A. No. 70/2022.
The appellants in these proceedings are at liberty to implead themselves in
the said proceeding before the NGT, which shall hear them, and consider
their submissions, before rendering a final order.
(c) The committee referred to in (b) above shall consist of competent officers
nominated by
(i) the Collector, from the Revenue Department;
(ii) the Chief Officer/CEO/Chairman TCD;
(iii) the Chairman/President of the Parishad; and
(iv) by the competent official of the Department of Water Resources,
nominated by the Principal Secretary.
(d) The above officials nominated by the respective named officers, shall
inspect the area, and also consider the record. On the basis of the inspection
and observation of the record, they shall submit a report to the NGT; copies
of such report shall be made available to all parties. The NGT shall
thereafter hear all parties, and consider their submissions, while rendering
final order.
26. The appeals are allowed, and pending applications, if any, are disposed
of, in the above terms, without order on costs.
New Delhi,
March 22, 2023


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