In Court

Published: Thursday 15 September 2005

Fishing ban: The Supreme Court recently issued a notice to the Union government and some states on a petition filed by Goa Environment Federation, a non-governmental organisation, which sought a ban on the operation of mechanised boats along the western coast every year from June 10 to August 15. The petition notes that fishing activities by mechanised boats and trawlers adversely affects breeding of many varieties of fish during the monsoon season, thereby harming the livelihood of fisherfolk.

The petitioner's counsel cited the reduced fish catch in the period following the monsoons as evidence of the problems the fisherfolk face. This not only violates their right to life and livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, but also disturbs the marine eco-system, he argued. "The regulation of fishing is, therefore, required in the interest of the fishing community as well as the environment and eco-system," the counsel held. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala and Goa are the states that have been served the notice.

Victory for USA: An arbitration tribunal of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has dismissed a US $970 million claim by Canadian methanol producer Methanex Corp., which challenged California's laws to regulate gasoline additive MTBE. As per NAFTA's ruling on August 9, 2005, the company will also have to pay to USA US $4 million in legal costs and arbitral expenditure.

Experts view the decision as supportive of the prerogative of states to protect public health and environment, irrespective of the provisions of international trade agreements. Methanex had submitted its claim in 1999, alleging that the ban imposed by California on MTBE in gasoline violated NAFTA's investment protections. But NAFTA's arbitrators dismissed the company's claim on jurisdictional grounds. They went to the extent of adding that even if they had jurisdiction, the claim failed on the ground of merits.

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