In the case of Sridevi Daatla v. Union of India (CA 3136/2020), SC set aside an order of National Green Tribunal which dismissed an appeal filed against the grant of environmental clearance for construction of the Greenfield International Airport, Vishakapatnam.

A Bench consist of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Ravindra Bhat had approached the issue an issue of limitation and whether a correct interpretation of law in regards to appeal filed under sec 16 was filed within a stipulated time of 90 days.

The bench observed that the provisions of all other laws stand overridden by virtue of sec 33 of the act and in regards to the limitation period the question would not arise under the reference of Section 5 of Limitation Act.The appellant is aggrieved by an order of the National Green Tribunal (hereafter referred to as “the NGT”1) and has, therefore, approached this Court under Section 22 of the NGT Act.

The NGT rejected her appeal on the ground that clearance related documents were voluminous and the matter required some technical, preferred to it against the environmental clearance for construction of the Greenfield International Airport,Bhogapuram, Vishakapatnam, which had been sought for by the fifth respondent.

Supreme Court then proceeded to consider the contention that the appeal is to be considered as having been filed within the extended period of 60 days, since the last (of the 60 days) was a Sunday (12.07.2020). It noticed that Section 10 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 stipulates that when the last date for doing something falls on a public holiday, the act “shall be considered as done..” if it “is done or taken on the next day afterwards on which the Court or office is open”.

Keeping these principles in mind, it is relevant to consider whether the NGT’s refusal to exercise discretion, in the facts and circumstances of this case, was erroneous. The court is conscious of the fact that exercise of discretion, per se, is a fact dependent one, and considerable latitude should be given to the court or tribunal of the first instance, in the performance of that task.

Nevertheless, as decided, cases and judgments have shown that the exercise of discretion does at times, call for appellate scrutiny by this court. This is one such.

The appellant pleaded that since the documentation attendant to the clearance granted to the Project Applicant was voluminous, and expert as well as professional legal advice of the kind necessary to approach the NGT was not available in the State of Andhra Pradesh, the procuring of relevant documents, and correspondence with counsel in Delhi and drafting of the appeal entailed some delay.

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