The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

Court decision shows ENGOs have legal interest in contesting public entity decisions

Sunday, 29 May 2016, 08:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

Following a court decision this week, Ramblers said that the Court of Appeal had ruled that an environment NGO has a legal interest to contest public entity decisions on the environment. The case regarded the validity of a Mepa permit, and whether these permits were regularly extended.

The ENGO in question, Ramblers, hailed the decision as one that is bound to strengthen the legal position of civil society in general and NGOs in particular.  

The Planning Authority and the people who were granted permission argued that the Ramblers' Association has no legal interest in bringing proceedings to challenge the validity of these permits. The First Hall of the Civil Court in its judgment had accepted this objection and upheld the defendants

The case concerns a property in Tal-Marga valley limits of Bahrija, which belongs to Marthese Said and Victor Scerri. Ramblers says that the site has ecological, scientific and archaeological value. “Despite this, Mepa has, over the years, released a number of permits on this property which, to Ramblers understanding, are either no longer in force or if they are, the conditions are not being followed. Despite this, Ramblers claimed, Mepa has allowed Scerri and Said to continue with the work until they receive the necessary permits.

In the appeal, Ramblers argued that they had a legal interest in the broader sense than what is traditionally accepted and applied in local jurisprudence.

In response, Said and Scerri said that Ramblers thus acknowledged that it has no legal interest as established by the traditional criteria, and that Ramblers is suggesting that the court abandon these principles.

The Court of Appeal, however, did not agree, and declared that Ramblers had a legal interest and the case was sent back to the First Court. 

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