India: Supreme Court's Diktat On Powers Of The NGT: Can Developers Finally Rest Easy? – Part 2

The first part of this two-part blog discussed the facts that led to the filing of appeals before the Supreme Court challenging the NGT's judgment dated May 4, 2016 and certain key issues discussed by the Supreme Court in its Judgment disposing of these appeals. In this piece, the second part of the two-part blog, we discuss other significant issues that have been dealt with in the Judgment and analyse the findings to deduce the reasoning employed by the Supreme Court in reaching its decision.

Overriding effect of the NGT Act:

  • The Supreme Court has also provided a finding on whether the NGT can issue directions which modify/amend state legislation. In the present case, arguments were advanced on the jurisdictional powers of the NGT by the learned Advocate General, Mr. Uday Holla, appearing on behalf of the State of Karnataka in a connected appeal.
  • It was submitted that the NGT has no power, competence or jurisdiction to consider the validity or vires of any statutory provision or regulation and that the NGT's order enlarging the buffer zones as provided under the RMP 2015 was liable to be set aside. It was also contended that this enlargement of buffer zones was ordered by the NGT without any legal and scientific basis and had effectively resulted in amendment of the RMP 2015, without there being any challenge to the same or any relief being sought in respect thereof.
  • However, the Supreme Court has held that a Central legislation enacted under Entry 13 of List-I Schedule VII of the Constitution of India will have an overriding effect over State legislations. The Supreme Court further drew reference to Section 33 of the NGT Act, which provides that the provisions of the NGT Act shall have an overriding effect over any other law or any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the NGT Act. In thus analysing the overriding effect of the NGT Act, the Supreme Court has held that the NGT while providing for restoration of environment in an area, can specify buffer zones around specific lakes and water bodies, which contradict zoning regulations under state legislations or the RMP 2015.

Applicability of limitation

  • The Respondent No. 9 had contended that Section 14 of the NGT Act prescribes a limitation period of six months and since the cause of action arose on September 30, 2013 when the EC was granted and the Original Application was filed only in March 2014, the Original Application was barred by limitation.
  • The Supreme Court, however, has held that the Original Application was not an application simpliciter under Section 14 of the NGT Act. The documentary evidence in the matter suggested that it related to environmental and ecological degradation in the catchment area of Bellandur Lake and, as such, gave rise to an independent cause of action under Section 15 of the NGT Act, the limitation period for which is five years from the date on which cause of action arises. Observing that the Original Application was, thus, a petition under Section 15 of the NGT Act, the Supreme Court held that the Original Application was well within such prescribed period of limitation.

General direction of expanding buffer zones:

  • With respect to general directions issued by the NGT in its order dated May 4, 2016, which affected the builders/developers in the city of Bangalore, the Supreme Court has observed that the learned senior counsel appearing for the Applicants submitted that there were no objections to set aside these general directions except to the extent those directions related to Respondent No. 9 and Respondent No. 10.
  • Therefore, the Supreme Court has only considered the contentions raised in the civil appeals filed by Respondent No. 9 and Respondent No. 10. The contentions of the appellants in the other connected appeals have not been taken into account by the Supreme Court in view of the lack of opposition by the Applicants to allowing such other connected appeals and accordingly, the general directions in the order dated May 4, 2016 in relation to buffer zones have been set aside.

Implications, Analysis and Conclusion

In view of the Judgment, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has effectively ensured that the buffer zones revert to the limits prescribed under the zoning regulations under the RMP 2015. For ease of reference, a comparative table of the buffer/green zones are provided below:

Buffer Zones as per NGT Order Buffer Zones after the Judgment i.e. as provided under RMP 2015
Lakes 75 meters 30 meters
Primary rajakaluves 50 meters 50 meters
Secondary rajakaluves 35 meters 25 meters
Tertiary rajakaluves 25 meters 15 meters

The Respondent No. 9 and Respondent No. 10, who were in violation of the conditions under the EC and the environment norms in general, have been strictly put to terms by the Hon'ble Court for the ecological damage caused by them thereby confirming the measures taken by NGT under Section 20 of the NGT Act. A total compensation of over Rs. 127 crores will have to be paid by Respondent No. 9 and Respondent No. 10 to the KSPCB as per the order/judgment of the NGT dated May 4, 2016.

However, the Supreme Court has lost the opportunity to lay down the law on retrospective application of directions issued by the NGT for the feeble reason that the Applicants' counsel had submitted 'no objection' to the general directions being set aside.

Further, the Supreme Court ought to have set up a committee to look into the encroachment of all lakes in the city of Bangalore, and to suggest solutions for prevention, restitution and restoration.

The Supreme Court, however, gave an important finding at paragraph 47 of the Judgment which reads "the tribunal while providing for the restoration of environment in an area, can specify buffer zones around specific lakes & water bodies in contradiction with zoning regulations under these statutes or the RMP". As has been discussed above, the Supreme Court has elaborately deliberated upon the issue of NGT's jurisdiction in the Judgment. This finding of the Supreme Court seems to suggest that powers are indeed vested with the NGT for issuing directions in future orders which may be specific to particular instances required for restoration of environment in any particular area, notwithstanding any conflict with other laws or regulations. However, it is interesting to note that while providing clarity on the issue of the jurisdictional powers of the NGT, the Supreme Court has conspicuously refrained from applying its findings to the facts of the present case, simply in view of the unsubstantiated lack of objection by the Applicants.

The NGT has recently passed an order/judgment dated December 6, 2018 in Original Application No. 125 of 2017 (Court on its own motion v. State of Karnataka) along with another connected matter, wherein it has issued certain directions in relation to discharge of untreated sewage and other effluents in violation of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, into Bellandur lake, Agara lake and Varthur lake. Directions were also issued on the basis of the findings of the Committee which included maintaining revised buffer zones. In view of the above finding in the Judgment in relation to powers of the NGT, the directions of the NGT in the order/judgment dated December 6, 2018 will continue to be operative and cannot be deemed to be set aside in view of the Judgment.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions