Jharkhand High Court: Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi J., while hearing a petition challenging parallel appointments to the post of Chairman, SPCP, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCFF) and Head of Forest Force (HoFF), issued directions for the filing of counter-affidavits by the respondent authorities.
The instant writ petition was moved under Article 226 of the Constitution, by a law graduate, working closely with ‘Swarnrekha Kshetra Vikash Trust’ operating primarily in the field of environment conservation and pollution control. The petition is moved against the Government authorities and the concerned department seeking essentially the writs of Quo warranto and Mandamus, with respect to the following points:
- Whether the sluggish approach of the State Government in appointing the same person on the post of Chairman, State Pollution Control Board (‘SPCB’) as well as on the post of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (‘PCCF’) and Head of Forest Force (‘HoFF’) at same time, violative of the Constitutional Mandate?
- Whether there is lackadaisical approach on the part of respondents, as no appropriate guidelines or recruitment rules in SPCBs has been framed, till date despite the Supreme Court judgment in Techi Tagi Tara v. Rajendra Singh Bhandari, (2018) 11 SCC 734?
- Whether parallel appointments on the post of PCCF and HoFF are tenable in the eyes of law?
- Whether the respondent authority duty-bound to frame appropriate guidelines or recruitment rules in SPCBs as per the mandate in Techi Tagi Tara v. Rajendra Singh Bhandari, (2018) 11 SCC 734?
- Whether the abovementioned appointments be strictly done in accordance with Section 4(2) of the Water (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1974 and Section 5(2) of the Air (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1981?
- Whether respondent no. 5 possesses special knowledge and practical experience to hold the office of the Chairman Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board as mandated by Section 4(2) of the Water (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1974 and Section 5(2) of the Air (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1981?
- Whether the appointment of respondent no. 5 as the Chairman, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board in violation of the statutory provisions enacted by the legislature?
- Whether the appointment of respondent no. 5 as the Chairman, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board is violative of the directions issued by the Supreme Court directing each State to frame rules/guidelines relating to such appointments?
- Whether the act of respondents contemptuous, in the light of the fact that no rules have been framed till date by the State government despite the order of Supreme Court in Techi Tagi Tara Vs. Rajendra Singh Bhandari, (2018) 11 SCC 734?
- Whether the respondents have violated the constitutional mandates of the Indian Constitution?
- Whether the action of respondents amount to colourable exercise of power?
Non-compliance of the Supreme Court judgment in, Techi Tagi Tara v. Rajendra Singh Bhandari, (2018) 11 SCC 734; wherein the Supreme Court said,
“…. Keeping the above in mind, we are of the view that it would be appropriate, while setting aside the Judgment and order of the NGT, to direct the Executive of all the States to frame appropriate guidelines or recruitment rules within six months, considering the institutional requirements of the SPCBs and the law laid down by statute, by this Court and as per the reports of various committees and authorities and ensure that suitable professionals and experts are appointed to the SPCBs. Any damage to the environment could be permanent and irreversible or at least long-lasting. Unless corrective measures are taken at the earliest, the State Governments should not be surprised if petitions are filed against the State for the issuance of a writ of quo warranto in respect of the appointment of the Chairperson and members of the SPCBs. We make it clear that it is left open to public-spirited individuals to move the appropriate High Court for the issuance of a writ of quo warranto if any person who does not meet the statutory or constitutional requirements is appointed as a Chairperson or a member of any SPCB or is presently continuing as such.
….. The appeals are disposed of in light of the above discussion.”
- That, the respondent no. 5 has no authority to hold the office of Chairman, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board as it is contrary to the well established principle of service jurisprudence, which clearly provides that the most eligible person shall be selected to hold any public office.
- That, the Section 4 of the Air Act clearly mandates that the State Government can only nominate a person as chairman of the State Pollution Control Board who possesses special knowledge or practical experience in matters relating to environmental protection or a person having special knowledge and experience in dealing with the matters relating to environmental protection.
- The respondent no. 5 has been merely appointed on the post of Chairman, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board as he has been holding the post of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (HOFF) which is not permissible in the eyes of law.
- That, the respondent no. 5 is a member of IFS cadre and cannot fulfil for planning a comprehensive programme for the prevention, control or abatement of pollution of streams and wells in the state and to advise the Government and in a matter concerning water, pollution Board is to collect and disseminate information relating to water pollution and the prevention, control or abatement thereof which requires practical knowledge and special expertise.
Direction by the Court
Acknowledging the petition, Court issues a direction to file counter-affidavits and sets the next date of hearing on 15-12-2020.[Pratik Sharma v. State of Jharkhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 883, decided on 20-10-2020]
Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together