The State Of Uttar Pradesh vs Uday Education And Welfare Trust on 22 April, 2022


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Supreme Court of India

The State Of Uttar Pradesh vs Uday Education And Welfare Trust on 22 April, 2022

Author: L. Nageswara Rao

Bench: [ R Gavai], [ N Rao]

                                        Non-Reportable

       IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


        Civil Appeal No(s).2407-2412 of 2021

THE STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH & ORS.ETC.
                                  .... Appellant(s)

                      Versus

UDAY EDUCATION AND WELFARE TRUST & ANR.ETC.
                              …. Respondent (s)

With

Civil Appeal No. of 2022
@ Diary No(s). 13067 of 2020)

Civil Appeal No. of 2022
@ Diary No. 13642 of 2020)

Civil Appeal No. of 2022
@ Diary No. 20888 of 2021)

Civil Appeal No. of 2022
@ Diary No. 13568 of 2020)

Civil Appeal No. of 2022
(@ SLP(C) No. 8296-8297 of 2020)

Civil Appeal No. of 2022
@ Diary No. 17445 of 2020)

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Civil Appeal No. of 2022
@ Diary No. 6948 of 2021)

Civil Appeal No. of 2022
@ Diary No. 27465 of 2021)

C.A. No. 2547-2548 of 2020

O R D E R

Leave granted.

1. These Appeals have been filed against the judgment

passed by the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New

Delhi (hereinafter, ‘the Tribunal’) dated 18.02.2020 and the

orders dated 02.12.2020 and 21.12.2020 by which the

review applications against the judgment dated 18.02.2020

were dismissed.

2. The State of Uttar Pradesh proposed to grant licences

to 1350 new wood-based industries by a notice dated

01.03.2019. The said notice was challenged in public

interest by Samvit Foundation, Uday Education & Welfare

Trust and U.P. Timber Association by filing Original

Applications before the National Green Tribunal, Principal

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Bench, New Delhi. The Tribunal passed an order dated

28.03.2019 directing the joint committee comprising of

Principal Secretary (Forest) U.P. and Principal Chief

Conservator of Forest, U.P. to submit a report. The said

report was submitted on 03.08.2019 in which it was stated

that sufficient wood was available for establishing new wood-

based industries in the State of UP. However, the Tribunal

had expressed prima facie disapproval for establishment of

the new wood-based industries and directed status quo to be

maintained by an order dated 01.10.2019.

3. The State of Uttar Pradesh filed an application for

modification of the order dated 01.10.2019. On 08.12.2019,

the Tribunal directed the State to furnish the following data –

“(i) District wise data of the existing saw mills/Wood
Based Industries with their number, capacity and
availability of wood species wise for the said saw mills
for the period of three years.

(ii) Justification for new saw mills/Wood Based Industries
in terms of availability of demand and supply of timber-
species wise. This data be supplied for the districts
where such new saw mills/Wood Based Industries are
proposed to be set up along with the note on carrying
capacity of such areas to sustain new saw mills/Wood
Based Industries.

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(iii) Mechanism to ensure that no trees are cut from the
government forests or private trees of categories which
are not exempted.”

4. In compliance of the order of the Tribunal dated

18.12.2019, an affidavit was filed on behalf of the State of

Uttar Pradesh on 22.01.2020 giving details of the district

wise data of the existing saw mills and wood-based industries

with their number, capacity and availability of wood species

wise for the saw mills for a period of 3 years. The State of

Uttar Pradesh justified its notice for issuance of licenses for

new wood-based industries on the ground that such

industries would lead to development of market, generate

employment, encourage planting of seedlings, reduce

migration of people, reduce dependence on traditional /cash

crops, boost new technology, boost export, reduce import

and utilization of resources. It was further mentioned by the

State Government that there would be an investment of

about Rs. 3,000 crores in the State with the establishment of

new wood-based industries and 80,000 people, mostly in the

rural areas of the State would be benefited by getting

employment. It was also brought to the notice of the Tribunal

that 632 out of 1215 wood-based industries having

provisional licenses were ready for operation and therefore

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the status quo granted on 01.10.2019 will cause irreparable

hardships.

5. Vide the Impugned Order, the Tribunal disposed of the

Original Applications by quashing the notice dated

01.03.2019 issued by the State of UP for establishing new

wood-based industries/saw mills, including all provisional

licenses given in pursuance to the same. While doing so, the

Tribunal expressed its view that it is necessary for the State

to have District-wise, species-wise and diameter class wise

inventory for arriving at a clear assessment of the availability

of timber for consumption by the wood-based industries. If

such study has not already been done, the Tribunal observed

that Forest Survey of India (FSI) could be assigned the task of

conducting such study and it was only after such credible

study and assessment that any decision on the

establishment of new wood-based industries can be taken.

On the basis of the data placed before it, the Tribunal was of

the opinion that there would hardly be any industrial wood

available for new wood-based industries. It observed that

establishment of new wood-based industries would lead to

shortage of timber which would result in the industries

resorting to illegal means to procure round timber. Applying

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the precautionary principles of environmental law, the

Tribunal directed the State to not proceed with the proposal

for establishment of new wood-based industries till an

assessment of the actual availability of timber was done.

6. The review applications filed against the order passed

by the Tribunal on 18.12.2020 were disposed of by orders

dated 02.12.2020 and 21.12.2020.

7. Notice was issued by this Court in the Appeals filed

against the aforementioned judgment and orders of the

Tribunal on 10.12.2021. On 04.04.2022, arguments were

heard on grant of interim relief as claimed by the State of

Uttar Pradesh and the provisional licence holders of the

proposed wood-based industries for the stay of operation of

the impugned judgment. It was argued on behalf of the

State of Uttar Pradesh that there is no dearth of timber

availability in the State and that the decision taken for

permitting new wood-based industries is in larger public

interest as there would be generation of revenue as well as

employment for a large number of rural populations. It was

brought to the notice of this Court by the learned Senior

Counsel appearing for the State of Uttar Pradesh that timber

is available in excess in the State, so much so that it was

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being exported to other States. It was argued by the learned

Senior Counsel for the State that the State Level Committee

has examined the matter relating to permission to be

granted to new wood-based industries and has taken a

decision in favour of granting the licenses based on the

expert opinions and studies. Therefore, at least 632 wood-

based industries should be granted permission to operate.

As reliance was placed on a study conducted by the technical

committee, we directed the State of Uttar Pradesh to place

on record the particulars relating to the deliberations of the

State Level Committee after 04.05.2018.

8. During the course of hearing, we perused the minutes

of meetings of the State Level Committee held on

04.05.2018, 06.06.2018 and 07.09.2018. In the minutes of

meeting recorded on 04.05.2018, it was mentioned that

technical committee had assessed the consumption of timber

by the existing different type of wood-based units viz.

plywood & veneer etc. by using the data on annual

consumption. The assessment of the technical committee

was based on the data provided by the Central Empowered

Committee in its meeting dated 26.05.2010. It was recorded

that the said data on annual consumption of timber may not

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be taken into account in view of the advance and

sophisticated machines which are being used by wood-based

units, which fact was not taken into account by the report of

the technical committee. The grant of new licences which

was on the basis of the report of the technical committee

would lead to more wood-based units than the availability of

timber. Therefore, it was decided by the State Level

Committee that the re-assessment has to be done by the

Indian Plywood Industries Research & Training Institute

(IPIRTI), Bengaluru to determine the correct number of new

licences to be issued to wood based units, under different

categories against the timber available in the State. It was

only after receiving the report from IPIRTI regarding annual

consumption of timber, that the decision of issuance of new

wood-based industries should be taken.

9. On 06.06.2018, a meeting of the State Level Committee

was held and the grant of new licences to wood-based

industries against the availability of timber was considered

again. It was mentioned in the said minutes of the meeting

that actual consumption of MDF/HDF/Particle Board has not

been assessed by them and it was recorded that a request

was made to IPIRTI, Bengaluru to submit a report by

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10.06.2018 with regard to the actual consumption of timber

against the maximum installed capacity of the plants and

machineries.

10. As against this, in the meeting of the State Level

Committee held on 07.09.2018 it was unanimously resolved

that there was no need for any fresh study/assessment for

consumption of timber by wood-based industries to be

conducted by the IPIRTI, Bengaluru. In support of the said

decision, it was stated that the notice dated 01.03.2019

proposing for grant of license to new wood-based industries

was in conformity with the directions issued by this Court on

05.10.2015 in W.P. (C) No. 202 of 1995 titled as ‘T.N.

Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India & Ors’. It

was further mentioned in the minutes of the meeting that

there is no provision for any new assessment/ survey to be

conducted regarding consumption of timber in the Wood

Based Industries (Establishment and Regulation) Guidelines,

2016 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and

Climate Change, Government of India. It was also noted that

IPIRTI, Bengaluru has not done any new study/assessment of

the consumption of timber by various wood-based industries

in any State/Union Territories. Thus, the State Government

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decided to adopt the figures given by the Central Empowered

Committee on 26.05.2010.

11. In its judgement dated 18.02.2020, the Tribunal set

aside the notice dated 01.03.2019 on the ground that the

available data would not support the contention of the State

regarding the availability of sufficient timber for setting up

new wood-based industries. The correctness of the said

judgment will have to be determined by this Court as and

when these appeals are finally heard. In the interregnum,

the Appellants are insisting for an interim order being passed

by this Court permitting the new wood-based industries to

commence their operations during the pendency of these

appeals. As a submission on behalf of the State of Uttar

Pradesh was made that the decision to permit new wood-

based industries was based on the recommendations made

by the State Level Committee, we directed the learned

Senior Counsel for the State to provide the copies of minutes

of meetings of the State Level Committee held on

04.05.2018, 06.06.2018 and 07.09.2018. The decision taken

by the State Level Committee on 04.05.2018 to grant

permission for new wood-based industries only after getting

a report from IPIRTI, Bengaluru which was requested to

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conduct an assessment as recorded in the minutes of the

meeting dated 06.06.2018, was given a go bye in the

resolution dated 07.09.2018.

12. We have heard the learned counsel at some length and

at present, we are not convinced that the judgment of the

Tribunal needs to be stayed. Prima facie, we are in

agreement with the Tribunal that data has to be collected by

the State before permitting new wood-based industries. Of

course, this view is subject to a decision to be taken after

hearing the parties in detail at a later stage. The State

Government is at liberty to pursue their request to the IPIRTI,

Bengaluru to conduct an assessment before taking a decision

to grant licence to new wood-based industries.

13. In view of the importance of issue involved in these

Appeals, the same is directed to be listed for final hearing

during the summer vacation, if the learned counsel for the

parties agree, or else, the appeals may be listed in August,

2022.

…………………………J.

[L. NAGESWARA RAO]

………………………..J.

[B. R. GAVAI]
New Delhi,
April 22, 2022

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