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M/s. Srini Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd., Red. by its Managing Director, Tera Chinnappa Reddy v/s Union of India, rep. by its Secretary & Others


    Writ Petition No. 9057 of 2020

    Decided On, 06 July 2020

    At, High Court of for the State of Telangana

    By, THE HONOURABLE CHIEF JUSTICE MR. RAGHVENDRA SINGH CHAUHAN & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE B. VIJAYSEN REDDY

    For the Petitioner: S. Niranjans Reddy, Learned Senior Advocate, Thoom Srinivas, Learned Counsel. For the Respondents: Namavarapu Rajeshwar Rao, Asst. Solicitor General of India, B.S. Prasad, Advocate General.



Judgment Text


Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, J.

M/s. Srini Pharmaceuticals Private Limited, the petitioner has challenged the legality of the order dated 10.06.2020 passed by the National Green Tribunal, South Zone, Chennai (‘the learned Tribunal’, for short), whereby on an Original Application filed by the Kalushya Parikshana Samithi, the learned Tribunal has constituted a fact finding Committee comprising of a Senior Officer dealing with the pharmaceutical matters from Regional Office, Chennai, a Senior Scientist of Regional Office, Central Pollution Control Board, Chennai, Telangana State of Pollution Control Board, Director, or a Senior Officer Deputed by Director, Drugs Control Administration, State of Telangana and the District Collector, Yadadri-Bhuvanagiri District, to inspect the area in question, and to submit a factual and action taken report, if violation of any environmental laws were discovered.

Briefly, the facts of the case are that the petitioner is a Company established in 1998. Ever since its establishment, the Company is manufacturing bulk drugs and drugs intermediate; it is exporting the same to a few foreign countries. For the excellent work carried out by the Company, in the year 2006, the National Safety Council awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to the Company. In the years 2004, 2007 and 2009, the District Collector, Nalgonda awarded the Best Green Belt Development Certificate to the Company.

However, in 2019, based on a complaint made by a third party, the Telangana State Pollution Control Board (‘the Board’, for short), the respondent No.3, held an elaborate enquiry against the Company. The Board discovered minor discrepancies, which were in no way connected with the allegations with regard to the pollution of water, or environment. The respondent No. 3 directed the Company to comply with the minor deviations. The Company not only complied with the minor deviations, but also submitted a report to the respondent No. 3.

Further, in January, 2020, the respondent Nos. 11 to 15, including the Kalushya Parikshana Samithi (the applicant before the learned Tribunal), filed a complaint before the Telangana Human Rights Commission (‘the THRC’, for short) wherein they claimed that the petitioner-Company and other pharmaceutical Companies were causing environmental pollution in the Yadadri- Bhuvanagiri District. Thus, the pharmaceutical companies were violating the human rights of the people residing in the District. Considering the complaint, the THRC directed the Board to enquire into the allegations about groundwater, air, and land pollution allegedly being caused by the industries in the District. Consequently, respondent No. 3 again conducted an elaborate enquiry, and submitted its report, dated 05.02.2020, before the THRC.

Furthermore, while the case was pending before the THRC, the respondent Nos.11 to 15 also approached the learned Tribunal, where similar allegations were made before the learned Tribunal. Based on the complaint, by order dated 10.06.2020, the learned Tribunal constituted a Committee as aforementioned. Hence, this petition before this Court.

Considering the fact that Section 22 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (for short ‘the Act’) provides an efficacious alternate remedy to any person aggrieved by any order of the Tribunal, this Court has asked Mr. S. Niranjan Reddy, the learned Senior Counsel, to address this Court on the issues of maintainability of the present writ petition.

Mr. S. Niranjan Reddy, the learned Senior Counsel, has raised the following contentions before this Court:-

Firstly, the mere availability of efficacious alternate remedy does not bar a High Court from invoking its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Relying on the case of Whirlpool Corporation v. Registrar of Trade Marks, Mumbai (1998) 8 SCC 1), the learned Senior Counsel has pleaded that where a writ is filed for enforcement of any fundamental rights, or on the ground that there is a violation of the principles of natural justice, or that the proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction, or where the very vires of an Act is under challenge, under these four circumstances, a writ petition is certainly maintainable.

Secondly, according to Section 14 (3) of the Act, no application for adjudication of a dispute shall be entertained by the Tribunal unless the application is made within a period of six months from the date on which the cause of action of such dispute first arose. Therefore, according to the learned Senior Counsel, it is the foremost duty of the learned Tribunal to see whether the application is hit by limitation or not? If the application were hit by limitation, the learned Tribunal should not proceed any further. Despite the fact that in the present case, the application was hit by limitation, as it was filed six months from the date of the cause of action had arisen, the learned Tribunal ought to have refused to exercise its powers under the Act.

Thirdly, according to Section 19 (4) (i) of the Act, an interim order can be passed only after providing the parties concerned an opportunity of being heard. However, in the present case the learned Tribunal has passed an ex-parte interim order thereby constituting a Committee to examine certain issues. Therefore, the rights of the petitioner under the principles of natural justice have been violated.

Fourthly, only vague allegations have been made in the complaint against the petitioner-Company, namely that like other industries, the industry being run by the petitioner is equally causing pollution in the area. According to the learned Senior Counsel, the learned Tribunal is unjustified in constituting a Committee to enquire about the functioning of the petitioner- Company. For, already twice the Board had enquired into the functioning of the petitioner-Company. A repeated enquiry into the functioning of the petitioner-Company would adversely affect the goodwill of the Company in the market. Therefore, the constitution of the Committee by the learned Tribunal is legally unjustified.

Lastly, according to the learned Senior Counsel, the issue with regard to the maintainability of a writ petition against an interim order passed by the learned Tribunal was equally raised before this Court in the case of State of Telangana, through its Chief Secretary, Kairatabad, Hyderabad, Telangana v Md. Hayath Uddin (2017) 6 ALT 599 (DB). In the said case, a learned Division Bench of this Court had held that despite the existence of Section 22 of the Act, in spite the existence of an alternative remedy, a writ petition is maintainable. Hence, even the present writ petition is maintainable before this Court.

Heard the learned Senior Counsel, examined the impugned order, and considered the case law cited at the Bar.

Section 22 of the Act is as follows:-

22. Appeal to Supreme Court. - Any person aggrieved by any award, decision or order of the tribunal, may, file an appeal to the Supreme Court, within ninety days from the date of communication of the award, decision or order of Tribunal, to him, on any one or more of the grounds specified in section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908):

Provided that the Supreme Court may, entertain any appeal after the expiry of ninety days, if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from preferring the appeal.

A bare perusal of the said provision clearly reveals that a right to file an appeal before the Apex Court is granted to any person aggrieved by an order of the Tribunal. The word “order” cannot be confined to a final order. Per force, it would include an interim order as well. The provision bestows a right of appeal to any aggrieved person, provided the person files the appeal within a period of ninety days from the date of the communication of the order. Further, the said appeal can be filed on any of the grounds specified in Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Moreover, the Apex Court is empowered to condone the delay in filing of the appeal if sufficient cause is shown for the delay in filing the appeal. Hence, Section 22 of the Act provides an efficacious alternate remedy to the aggrieved person.

The interesting jurisprudential question is why the Act provides a direct appeal to the Hon’ble Supreme Court, without first making an order, or award, or decision of the learned Tribunal subject to the jurisdiction of the High Court?

There seems to be a legislative logic which bestows the power to hear an appeal only upon the Apex Court: firstly, the object of the Act is to provide “for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” (Emphasis added). While enacting the Act, the Parliament took note of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held at Stockholm, in June, 1972, to which India was a participant, and also of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held at Rio de Janeiro, in 1992, where India had also participated. At the latter Conference the States were called upon “to provide effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy and to develop national laws regarding liability and compensation for eh victims of pollution and other environmental damage.” (Emphasis added). The Parliament also noticed that the right to a healthy environment was part of the right to life enshrined in Art. 21 of the Constitution of India. Thus, the aim and object of the Act is to provide “for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases”, “to provide for effective access to judicial…proceedings”. Thus, the aim is to shorten the time for the completion of the judicial proceedings, rather than to put the parties on a rollercoaster ride through the time consuming hierarchy of the judiciary.

Moreover, since environmental issues may cover a vast areas of the country, may involve different States, may affect large population, it was felt necessary that any appeal, concerning the subject, has to be heard by the Highest Court of the land. For, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has a territorial jurisdiction over the entire country. Therefore, Section 22 of the Act purposefully directs the aggrieved party to approach the Apex Court by filing an appeal within ninety days from the date of communication of the impugned order, decision, or award passed by the learned Tribunal. Further, in order to ensure that complete justice is done to the aggrieved person, the Section further bestows the power of condonation of delay upon the Apex Court.

Therefore, two moot issues arise for this Court: firstly, whether the existence of an efficacious alternate remedy prevents the High Court from exercising its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India or not?

Secondly, whether in light of Section 22 of the Act, and in the light of the facts and circumstances of the present case, the High Court should invoke its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India or not?

The first issue is no longer res integra; it is well settled by numerous judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. In the case of Thansingh Nathmal v. Superintendent of Taxes (AIR 1964 SC 1419), a Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court opined as under:-

7….The jurisdiction of the High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution is couched in wide terms and the exercise thereof is not subject to any restrictions except the territorial restrictions which are expressly provided in the Article. But the exercise of the jurisdiction is discretionary; it is not exercised merely because it is lawful to do so. The very amplitude of the jurisdiction demands that it will ordinarily be exercised subject to certain self-imposed limitations. Resort to that jurisdiction is not intended as an alternative remedy for relief which may be obtained in a suit or other mode prescribed by statute. Ordinarily the Court will not entertain a petition for a writ under Art. 226, where the petitioner has an alternative remedy which, without being unduly onerous, provides an equally efficacious remedy. Again the High Court does not generally enter upon a determination of questions which demand an elaborate examination of evidence to establish the right to enforce which the writ is claimed. The High Court does not therefore act as a court of appeal against the decision of a court or tribunal, to correct errors of fact, and does not by assuming jurisdiction under Art. 226 trench upon an alternative remedy provided by statute for obtaining relief. Where it is open to the aggrieved petitioner to move another tribunal, or even itself in another jurisdiction for obtaining redress in the manner provided by a statute, the High Court normally will not permit, by entertaining a petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution, the machinery created under the statute to be by-passed, and will leave the party applying to it to seek resort to the machinery so set up.

(Emphasis added)

In Commissioner of Income Tax v Chhabil Das Agarwal (2014) 1 SCC 603), the Apex Court observed as under:

It is settled law that non-entertainment of petitions under writ jurisdiction by the High Court when an efficacious alternative remedy is available is a rule of self-imposed limitation. It is essentially a rule of policy, convenience and discretion rather than a rule of law. Undoubtedly, it is within the discretion of the High Court to grant relief under Article 226 despite the existence of an alternative remedy. However, the High Court must not interfere if there is an adequate efficacious alternative remedy available to the petitioner and he has approached the High Court without availing the same unless he has made out an exceptional case warranting such interference or there exist sufficient grounds to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226.

(Emphasis added).

Relying on its earlier judgments, the Hon’ble Supreme Court further held as under:

Although article 226 confers a very wide power in the matter of issuing writs on the High Court, the remedy of writ is absolutely discretionary in character. If the High Court is satisfied that the aggrieved party can have an adequate or suitable relief elsewhere, it can refuse to exercise its jurisdiction. The Court, in extraordinary circumstances, may exercise the power if it comes to the conclusion that here has been a breach of principles of natural justice or procedure required for decision has not been adopted.

In the case of Nivedita Sharma v Cellular Operators Association of India (2011) 14 SCC 337), the Apex Court had opined that, “Where hierarchy of appeals is provided by the stature, party must exhaust the statutory remedies before resorting to writ jurisdiction for relief.”

Even in the case of Whirlpool Corporation (supra), the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held as under:-

Under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Court, having regard to the facts of the case, has a discretion to entertain or not to entertain a writ petition. But the High Court has imposed upon itself certain restrictions one of which is that if an effective and efficacious remedy is available, the High Court would not normally exercise its jurisdiction. But the alternative remedy has been consistently held by this Court not to operate as a bar in at least three contingencies, namely, where the writ petition has been filed for the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights or where there has been a violation of the principle of natural justice or where the order or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or the vires of an Act is challenged.

(Emphasis added)

Therefore, even in the said case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has not opined that merely because one or some of the four circumstances is/ are made out, the discretion of the High Court is denuded or deprived. Even if any of the four grounds were made out, even then the High Court would continue to have the discretion whether to invoke, or not to invoke its writ jurisdiction. In the case of CCE v. Dunlop India Ltd. (1985) 1 SCC 260), the Hon’ble Supreme Court has further opined that “Article 226 of the Constitution of India is not meant ‘to short-circuit or circumvent statutory procedures’. It is only where statutory remedies are entirely ill-suited to meet the demands of extraordinary situations, as for instance where the very vires of the statute is in question or where private or public wrongs are so inextricably mixed up and the prevention of public injury and the vindication of public justice require it that recourse may be had to Article 226 of the Constitution. But then the Court must have good and sufficient reason to bypass the alternative remedy provided by statute”. Therefore, it is only in “extraordinary circumstances”, that the High Court would be justified in bypassing the statutory remedy, and in invoking its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

In the case of United Bank of India v. Satyawati Tondon (2010) 8 SCC 110), while dealing with the interference of the High Courts in financial matters, and specifically in orders passed by the Debt Recovery Tribunals under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has come down heavily upon the High Courts for their needless interference in such matters. The Apex Court has observed as under:-

43. Unfortunately, the High Court overlooked the settled law that the High Court will ordinarily not entertain a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution if an effective remedy is available to the aggrieved person and that this rule applies with greater rigour in matters involving recovery of taxes, cess, fees, other types of public money and the dues of banks and other financial institutions. In our view, while dealing with the petitions involving challenge to the action taken for recovery of the public dues, etc. the High Court must keep in mind that the legislations enacted by Parliament and State Legislatures for recovery of such dues are a code unto themselves inasmuch as they not only contain comprehensive procedure for recovery of the dues but also envisage constitution of quasi-judicial bodies for redressal of the grievance of any aggrieved person. Therefore, in all such cases, the High Court must insist that before availing remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution, a person must exhaust the remedies available under the relevant statute.

44. While expressing the aforesaid view, we are conscious that the powers conferred upon the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, directions, orders or writs including the five prerogative writs for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III or for any other purpose are very wide and there is no express limitation on exercise of that power but, at the same time, we cannot be oblivious of the rules of self-imposed restraint evolved by this Court, which every High Court is bound to keep in view while exercising power under Article 226 of the Constitution.

45. It is true that the rule of exhaustion of alternative remedy is a rule of discretion and not one of compulsion, but it is difficult to fathom any reason why the High Court should entertain a petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution and pass interim order ignoring the fact that the petitioner can avail effective alternative remedy by filing application, appeal, revision, etc. and the particular legislation contains a detailed mechanism for redressal of his grievance.

As an exception, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has also noted that “of course, if the petitioner is able to show that its case falls within any of the exceptions carved out in Baburam Prakash Chandra MAheshwari v. Antarim Zila Parishad (AIR 1969 SC 556), Whirlpool Corpn v. Registrar of Trade Marks (supra), and Harbanslal Sahnia v. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (2003) 2 SCC 107)and some other judgments, then the High Court may, after considering all the relevant parameters and public interest, pass an appropriate interim order”.

(Emphasis added)

Thus, even according to the case of Satyawati Tondon (supra), the discretionary power of the High Court continues to exist even if the petitioner makes out a prima facie case that the case does fall within the exceptions carved out by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Whirlpool Corporation (supra). Moreover, such a discretionary power can be exercised “after considering all the relevant parameters and public interest”.

Of course, the learned Senior Counsel has relied upon the case of Md. Hayath Uddin and Ors (supra), in order to plead that despite the existence of the alternative remedy under Section 22 of the Act, this Court had interfered with an interim order passed by the learned Tribunal in the said case.

However, the said judgment is distinguishable on factual matrix. In the said case, the Principal Seat of the NGT in Delhi had granted an interim stay order in favour of the Applicant in the Original Application. The NGT had stayed further construction of a major irrigation project in the State of Telangana. Since the State was aggrieved by the said interim order, it had challenged the same on two grounds: firstly, the NGT did not have the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the O. A. as the cause of action did not arise within its territorial jurisdiction. Secondly, before staying the Kaleshwarm Irrigation Project suddenly, the NGT should have examined the issue whether the O.A. was filed within the period of limitation. According to the petitioner, therein, the applicant-respondent had filed the O. A. many years after the cause of action had arisen. But despite the fact that the State had raised the issue of limitation, the NGT had neither discussed, nor adjudicated the said issue. It is in these “extraordinary circumstances” of the NGT not having the territorial jurisdiction and still stopping the largest irrigation project of the state, and in the NGT not adjudicating the issue of limitation, although the said issue was raised and argued, that this Court had invoked its writ jurisdiction.

However, as would be discussed here in below, no such “extraordinary circumstances” exist in the present case. Therefore, the case of Md. Hayath Uddin (supra) does not rush to the rescue of the petitioner.

The principles which can easily be culled out from the string of judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court are as under:

1. The power under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India is couched in wide terms. Hence, it is not subject to any restrictions, except the self-imposed ones.

2. The exercise of the jurisdiction is absolutely discretionary; it is not exercised merely because it is lawful to do so.

3. The self-imposed restrictions are essentially a rule of policy, convenience and discretion rather than a rule of law.

4. The self-imposed restrictions are: firstly, if there is an efficacious alternative remedy available to the aggrieved party; secondly, if the case involves disputed questions of facts, which would require elaborate examination of evidence in order to establish the right which the aggrieved party claims through the issuance of a writ; thirdly, if the writ petition is hit by delay and latches. Since the writ jurisdiction is one of equity, delay would defeat equity; fourthly, if a party comes to the court with unclean hands.

5. The existence of an alternative remedy is not an absolute bar on the power of writ jurisdiction of a High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India.

6. However, the said power is to be invoked only in exceptional cases and under extraordinary circumstances. The party invoking the writ jurisdiction has to establish not only that extraordinary 15 circumstances do exist, but also that the alternative remedy provided by the statute is “entirely ill-suited to meet the demands of extraordinary situation”.

7. Since the existence of an alternative remedy is not an absolute bar to the invoking of a writ jurisdiction, the said jurisdiction may be exercised in four circumstances: a) where the writ petition has been filed for enforcement of fundamental rights; b) where the principles of natural justice have been violated; c) where the order or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction; d) where the vires of an Act is under challenge. But even when these grounds are made out, even then the exercise of the writ jurisdiction continues to be discretionary.

8. Before exercising the writ jurisdiction in face of the existence of the alternative remedy, the Court is duty bound to consider if the exercise of writ power would defeat the purpose, aim or object of the statute which provides the alternative remedy. For, the exercise of the extraordinary jurisdiction under Art. 226 of the Constitution may defeat the very purpose of the statute.

9. The High Court should also consider whether the exercise of the writ jurisdiction is in the interest of the public or not? For, the jurisdiction should not be so exercised as to adversely affect the public interest. Therefore, the High Court should be circumspect while exercising the writ jurisdiction when an alternative 16 remedy is available to the aggrieved party under a statute.

Thus the moot questions before this Court are whether the petitioner has been able to establish the existence of “extraordinary circumstances” which would warrant the High Court to invoke its writ jurisdiction or not? And, whether the petitioner has made out even a prima facie case, that “the statutory remedies are entirely illsuited to meet the demands of extraordinary situations” or not?

A bare perusal of the impugned order passed by the learned Tribunal clearly reveals that the learned Tribunal has merely constituted a Committee of highly professional experts to examine “whether the functioning of these units have caused any impact on the ground water quality, as well as water quality in Musi River, whether the discharge from the Effluent Treatment Plant/Common Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP/CETP) functioning in the cluster or operated by the units are meeting the norms, whether there was Any illegal discharge of untreated effluents by any of the Pharmaceuticals companies mentioned in the application to any water bodies, whether on account of the functioning of the unit if any damage has been caused to soil as well as water affecting the agriculture yield of the applicants or nearby agricultural fields”. The Committee was further directed “to consider the question as to whether the Government has formed a committee or published any guidelines regarding the functioning of the Pharmaceutical companies on the basis of the directions of this Tribunal in Original Application No. 69 of 2013, and if so what is the stage of its implementation and whether on account of the pollution load generated by the Pharmaceutical companies, there is any necessity 17 to have any categorization change”. The Committee was further directed “to consider the question of health hazards if any, caused on account of the functioning of the units by causing pollution by discharging the effluents or emission of gases if any, which is not in conformity with the standard provided and also suggest the remedial measures on that aspect as well”. Lastly, the Committee was directed “to assess the environmental compensation if any violation found, and whether any remedial measures have to be taken to rectify the degradation caused to soil or water and suggest measures to restore the same to its original position”.

Thus, the learned Tribunal has merely constituted a fact finding Committee, which is required not only to examine certain aspects of the possible environmental pollution caused by the pharmaceutical companies, in the subject area, but also to suggest the remedial measures which are required to be taken, and the compensation which may be required to be paid, if any violation of the environmental laws were discovered. Most importantly, the Committee has not been constituted specifically to examine the functioning of the petitioner-company. Thus, the constitution of the Committee is not targeted only at the petitioner-Company. In fact, it has been constituted to examine the functioning of a large number of pharmaceutical companies which continue to produce bulk drugs in the Choutuppal Mandal of Yadadri-Bhuvanagiri District. Hence, prima facie, the constitution of such Committee is in “public interest”. For, unless and until the alleged extent of the environmental pollution being caused by pharmaceutical companies in the given area is discovered, the learned Tribunal would not be in a position to adjudicate the lis before it. Therefore, 18 the learned Senior Counsel is unjustified in claiming that if repeatedly the functioning and operation of the petitioner-company are enquired into, its goodwill would adversely be affected in the market.

The learned Senior Counsel has vehemently argued that the learned Tribunal has overstepped its jurisdiction by not initially examining the issue with regard to the limitation. However, the said argument is highly misplaced. Firstly, according to the learned Senior Counsel, the impugned order was passed ex-parte. Hence, the petitioner could not have raised the plea of limitation before the learned Tribunal prior to passing of the impugned order. Since the plea was not even raised, there was no occasion for the learned Tribunal to adjudicate on the said issue.

Secondly, the issue of limitation is both a question of law and of fact. Therefore, the learned Tribunal could not have entered into the said issued at the initial stage

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of the proceedings. For, the learned Tribunal has clearly noticed that “at present we are not going into the question as to whether all the prayers that have been prayed for by the applicant can be granted or not? However, on going through the allegations, we are satisfied that there arises a substantial question of environment requiring interference of this tribunal to resolve the issue”. But, before entering into the actual dispute, the learned Tribunal has merely constituted a fact finding Committee. The learned Senior Counsel has also pleaded that the learned Tribunal has passed an ex-parte order, whereas the power to pass an ex-parte order is not available to the learned Tribunal. Suffice it to say, that the power to pass an ex-parte order does 19 exist. For, under Section (4) (h) of the Act, the learned Tribunal has the power “to set-aside an ex-parte order passed by it”. However, this Court refrains from commenting any further, as the issue before this Court is whether the writ jurisdiction should be exercised when an efficacious alternative remedy is available under Section 22 of the Act, or not? Moreover, the twin issues being raised by the learned Senior Counsel with regard to the limitation, and with regard to the passing of an ex-parte order, can very well be raised by the petitioner before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the appeal under Section 22 of the Act. Therefore, the existence of a statutory alternate remedy cannot be claimed to be “ill-suited to meet the demands of extraordinary situations”. Further, keeping in mind the purpose of having Section 22 of the Act in the statute, the existence of the alternate remedy of filing of appeal before the Apex Court of the country is, indeed, the most efficacious remedy available. For, such an alternative remedy would shorten the period of judicial proceedings, thereby providing “an effective access to judicial proceedings.” Furthermore, if this Court were to interfere with the impugned order, it would keep the environmental issues alive for some time. This would defeat the very purpose of the Act. Hence, the invoking of the power of writ would be against public interest. Furthermore, since the environmental issues may cover a large population, may cover a large area of the country, it is, indeed, in the interest of justice that such issues be debated and decided by the highest court of the country. Keeping in mind the legislative logic behind the existence of Section 22 of the Act, the High Court should be weary of exercising its writ jurisdiction unless the rarest of the rare case is made out, and unless there are exceptional circumstances for invoking the writ jurisdiction. As discussed above, no such exceptional circumstances have been made out in the present case. For the reasons stated above, this Court is of the firm opinion that though this Court can exercise its writ jurisdiction despite the existence of the alternative remedy, but such power should be exercised only in exceptional circumstances. Since the petitioner has failed to make out a case of “exceptional circumstances”, this court declines to invoke its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Hence, the writ petition is, hereby, dismissed. No order as to costs. Miscellaneous Applications, pending if any, shall stand closed.
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