SC approves Shimla Development Plan, 2041: NGT cannot issue directions to the legislative body to exercise its legislative functions in a particular manner

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While hearing the State of Himachal Pradesh vs. Yogendra Mohan Sengupta case on January 11, 2024, the Supreme Court (SC) of India approved the Shimla Development Plan, 2041 stating that the development plan has been finalized after considering the reports of various experts. The experts addressed herein were from various fields including environment and urban planning. The bench also said that “the development plan, which has been finalized after taking recourse to the statutory provisions and undergoing the rigors thereto, cannot be stalled in entirety thereby putting the entire developmental activities to a standstill.” The matter was heard by a two-judge bench comprising Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Aravind Kumar. The top Court set aside all the previous orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that banned construction activities in the ecologically sensitive areas of Shimla.

During the court proceedings, the SC answered a question “Whether the NGT could have issued directions to the legislative body to exercise its legislative functions in a particular manner?” The SC observed that “Neither the High Courts while exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution nor the Supreme Court while exercising powers under Article 32 of the Constitution can direct the legislature or its delegatee to enact a law or subordinate legislation in a particular manner.” If the HCs and SC, in their extraordinary powers under Articles 226 and 32 of the Indian Constitution cannot do so, the answer to the question as to whether a Tribunal constituted under a statute, having a limited jurisdiction, can do so or not, would be obviously ‘No’. 

The Senior Advocates (SAs) who appeared for the applicants before the NGT were SA Sanjay Parikh, SA Rajive Bhalla, and SA PV Surendranath. SA Vinay Kuthalia, SA Anup Rattan, Advocate Rishi Malhotra, Advocate Puneet Rajta, Advocate Himanshu Tyagi, and Advocate Joydip Pati appeared for the State of Himachal Pradesh. After hearing the arguments from both sides, the SC quashed and set aside the orders of the NGT and allowed the appeals.