Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking note of the “appalling situation” concerning National Green Tribunal where, as of today, there are about 14 vacancies (seven judicial members and seven technical members), the 3-judge bench of AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ has directed Centre to notify, within 10 days, all the existing vacancies at one go, including the anticipated vacancies likely to take place in the next six months.

The Court noticed that the Tribunal is presently functioning with the strength of only seven judges i.e. one chairman, three judicial members and three technical members, despite the mandate to ensure that the minimum number of members shall not be less than 10. It said,

“This is an appalling situation concerning the premier institution such as National Green Tribunal, which is required to deal with environmental issues. That cannot be countenanced.”

Centre had, in it’s response, given assurance that notification for filling up nine vacancies is being issued by the end of July, 2020. But the Court said that it was not enough and that a notification for ALL vacancies was needed to be issued.

The Court, further, directed that until the proposed selection process culminates with appointment order(s) of the concerned candidates against the existing vacancies, the members presently in office as on this date but are likely to retire shortly, shall continue to hold office in terms of this order and discharge their functions accordingly.

The Court has asked the Centre to file a compliance report by the next date of hearing i.e. 13.08.2020.

[NGT Bar Association (Western Zone) v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 591 , order dated 23.07.2020]

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Appointments & TransfersNews

S.O.   3325(E).— In  exercise  of the powers conferred by sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 6 and Section 7 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (19 of 2010), the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India appointed Justice Shri Adarsh Kumar Goel, Judge of the Supreme Court of India as the Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal with effect from the date of publication of this notification  in the Official Gazette for a period of five  years or till he attains the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.

Ministry of Environment,  Forest and Climate Change

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: On 04.08.2017, the bench of J.S. Khehar, CJ and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J agreed to hear the plea filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh challenging the validity of some provisions of the Financy Act, 2017 on the ground that those provisions would destroy the independent functioning of the NGT and 18 other tribunals.

The Court, however, refused to stay the operation of the Act and tagged the petition with a  similar pending petition filed by NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment.

The Finance Act, 2017, which came into effect from April 1, led to framing of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 and these allegedly gave “unbridled” powers to the Executive to decide the qualification of the members, their appointment and removal among other issues. The petitioner said that the changes brought about by the Act would weaken functioning of tribunals including the NGT and curtail their powers and that the tribunal rules gave primacy to the Executive in the appointment and removal process of the chairperson or president and judicial members of the statutory tribunals and authorities and it amounted to attempting to usurp judicial appointment powers and influence the administration of justice.

Source: PTI


Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): While coming down heavily upon Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) for causing environment degradation due to widening of Mithi River, NGT imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 25 lakh upon the Authority. Said directions were issued by the Tribunal during the hearing of an appeal filed by a social organization Jalbiradari and an NGO Vanashakti, challenging the grant of CRZ Clearance for construction of retaining wall, service road along with the banks of the river Mithi, Mumbai by MMRDA. It was alleged in the appeal that nearly 90 per cent of the project had already been completed particularly in relation to the construction of retaining wall on the flood plain of river Mithi River which is primarily intended to protect the flooding of the adjacent areas. It was further alleged in the appeal that the blasting work carried out in river was in violation to the relevant laws in force.  After perusal of relevant documents and hearing the parties, NGT observed, “The project proponent, MMRDA has started the project without compliance to the relevant provisions of law. It caused environmental degradation and even the blasting work was carried in violation to the relevant laws in force. Consequently, the said respondent is liable to pay Environmental Compensation. At this initial stage, it is directed that the project proponent shall pay Rs. 25 lakhs as Environmental Compensation, which will be subject to final adjustment upon submissions of the report by the expert body including the money required for taking restorative and remedial measures.” NGT also directed State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) to nominate a member of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute as a member of the SEIAA, to examine the entire matter and submit its report to the Tribunal. SEIAA was further directed to consider the project as it exists and to give the amount to be imposed on the MMRDA for its defaults, violations and for damaging the environment, ecology and biodiversity of Mithi river and its surroundings. “The SEIAA shall ensure that the creek of river Mithi at the discharge point is duly protected. Because of the construction or any other reason the flow of river Mithi should not be adversely affected,” Tribunal added in its order. [Jalbiradari v. Ministry of Environment & Forests, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 188, decided on May 31, 2016]