Batting for “paperless environment” during the hearing in a public interest litigation (PIL) that seeks to protect wetlands and forests, the Bombay High Court has said that the matter “will be taken up by e-filing”.
The HC was hearing an application filed by NGO Vanashakti, seeking implementation of various measures to identify, inventorise and issue appropriate gazette notifications regarding all wetlands, including paddy fields, in Maharashtra. The application has sought that the authorities update the existing documents with accurate digital maps demonstrating clear demarcation of wetland boundaries. It had prayed that all wetlands, upon demarcation, be notified by issuing appropriate gazette notifications.
While asking the government and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to file their replies, a division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Gauri Godse recently said, “Advocates may use paper. We will not. As a first step, this interim application will be taken up by e-filing.”
The government, through the Ministry of Revenue and Forest and the MCZMA have been directed to e-file their affidavits in court by September 30.
In the meantime, the Registry will make the necessary arrangements to ensure that this interim application is completely digitised and is made available for access online in e-filing mode, added the court.
Calling for reply affidavits, the HC said that these require “more studied directions taking into account various factors and perhaps evolving a long term sustainable protocol”.
One of the prayers in the application is to restore all degraded wetlands that were earlier identified by the mangroves cell and the grievances redressal committee. While saying that it will look into this prayer at a later stage, the court clarified that deferring the hearing doesn’t mean that the government ignores it.
It further said, “If these degraded wetlands have been identified, as the application suggests, then orders of the court are not necessary before the state government takes the necessary corrective action.” The HC has kept the PIL for hearing on October 10, 2022.