New Delhi, 14 December 2010: Government today assured Supreme Court of India of making ad hoc appointment of member to make the Green Tribunal functional. The bench observed that Government must take steps to make Green Tribunal functional in 7 days. The Court will hear the case next on Thursday when the government has to inform the court of the status.
On previous hearing of the case Supreme Court had noticed the absence of any authority for appeal on environment matters. The bench observed the fact that with the establishment of the Tribunal, National Environment Appellate Authority already stood abolished and all the pending cases are deemed to have been transferred to the newly constituted Tribunal, which has so far not become functional. In view of this the court had ordered, “We deem it proper to make it clear that it will be open to the Central Government to take appropriate action under Section 37(1) of the Act.” Section 37 (1) deals with power to remove difficulties and empowers the government to make new provisions.
Today, appearing for the central government Additional Solicitor General Indira Jai Singh informed the court that the central government is in the process of formulating the provisions. She informed that ad hoc appointment of expert members will be made so that at least one bench is made available for hearing appeals.
Bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly after being informed by government that the aforesaid provisions will be issued in a day or two, adjourned the case for Thursday.
The Green Tribunal
The establishment of the National Green Tribunal was officially notified on 19.10.2010 and Supreme Court retired Judge Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta was appointed as its Chairperson.
The National Green Tribunal established by National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 is exclusively dedicated to environmental issues is supposed to have circuit benches across the country. For the purpose “The National Green Tribunal will have 10 expert members” the Minister of Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh had declared. However, in absence of any expert member other than Chairman the Tribunal is not even functional.
The Tribunal is empowered to issue directions in conformity to polluter pays principle and the principle of sustainable development. This is third of its kind tribunal in the world after Australia and New Zealand.
Government not serious on Environment Issues
Environmentalist and activist, Vimal Bhai, the Respondent in the proceedings speaking to Law et al. News questioned the seriousness of the government in environment matters.
Vimal Bhai has been pursuing a long journey of litigation fighting the system. He had initially challenged the environment clearance granted by Central Government on 08.02.2005 for the setting up of the Loharinag-Pala Hydroelectric Power Project (600 MW) in Uttarkashi, District of Uttaranchal before the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA). NEAA rejected Vimal Bhai’s challenge on a technical ground of delay. This decision was challenged before the Delhi High Court, which even though allowed the petition and remanded matter back for fresh consideration, the matter could not be heard due to absence of members at NEAA.
This was beginning of a long-winded process of litigation overseeing appointment of members and fixing of terms and salary of members of NEAA. The matter is now pending before Supreme Court in an appeal against the order of the High Court issuing directions to Central government regarding NEAA. Meanwhile National Green Tribunal was formed and NEAA was abolished. However, the Green Tribunal too started facing the same problem as the Government was not able to find expert members.
Vimal Bhai speaking to Law et al. News expressed his anger questioning, “In a population of over 100 Crore people, with all their departments and wings, professors, NGO’s, they are not able to find 5 environmental experts since last five years?”
He says “with all boasting and activism done at Cancun summit, the truth is that the government is not serious about environment issues.” The whole process of litigation since last five years proves this fact, he added.
Advocates Sanjay Parikh, Ritwick Dutta, Rahul Choudhary, Anitha Shenoy are appearing for Vimal Bhai before the Supreme Court.
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