October 21, 2015 1:55:20 am
In a move likely to speed up various projects across the country that are stuck awaiting a nod from the Supreme Court’s Green Bench, the apex court transferred more than 300 cases to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and various Central and state-level committees for final decisions.
The Green Bench, headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, decided to let go of several cases for swift decisions by appropriate authorities in the Central and state governments and by the NGT, thereby also shedding its pendency.
With this move, only few important mining matters, relating to Goa, Karnataka and Odisha, and a few other cases of national importance remain pending before the Green Bench.
Hearing a PIL pending since 1995, the Bench — also comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Adarsh K Goel — disposed of more than 300 applications, some pending for the last 14 years.
The Bench made it clear that the apex court’s approval is not required in cases where other appropriate authorities are empowered to decide. A large number of matters were related to projects that had obtained clearances from the state and Central authorities, and were also approved by the court-mandated Central Empowered Committee (CEC), but were in a queue for the Green Bench’s approval.
The last time the Green Bench had heard the PIL in detail was in May. By its October 5 order, released last week, cases involving forest clearances, and the CEC’s views on it, now stand transferred to the NGT. Also, the matters relating to compliance with the apex court orders will also be monitored by the NGT now.
“Registry is directed to transfer all these matters to the NGT for appropriate orders being passed by it, within 45 days’ time from today. Once these matters are received by it, the Chairman of the NGT will take an appropriate decision to assign these matters to appropriate bench/benches constituted all over the country,” said the Bench.
However, the top court asked NGT Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar to keep four matters for hearing only by the tribunals’ principal bench at New Delhi, presided over by him. These pertain to the CEC’s report on Western Ghats, forest land involved in the mining leases transfer to J P Cement Ltd, construction of hotels in Mcleodganj on forest land and illegal felling of trees and road construction in wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka.
Further, all matters for grant of permissions for implementation of projects in areas falling in national parks or sanctuaries, including rationalisation of boundaries, will now be considered by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), as per the Bench.
With this order, the issue regarding depletion of population of tigers and other important animals in national parks and sanctuaries in the country will also be transferred to the NBWL.
The Bench also requested the NBWL to furnish copy of the orders passed by it within 30 days to the CEC, which may approach the top court if it is aggrieved.
However, in case any other party is unhappy with the orders, it will have to move the appellate forum available under the law and no direct appeal will be entertained by the apex court.
Further accepting the suggestions of amicus curiae Harish Salve and ADN Rao, the Bench ordered that applications relating to wood-based industries shall now be
decided by the State Level Committees (SLCs).
Directing immediate constitution of the SLC in each state and UT under the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, the Bench said that the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) was authorised to issue appropriate guidelines for wood-based industries and grant of approvals.
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