The UPA government wants to leave it to the next government to decide on the Supreme Court’s order to set up a national environment regulator for granting green clearances. The court had set April 30 as the deadline for the same.
Filing its affidavit in the court on Thursday, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) sought time till July 15 to decide on setting up the regulator to appraise projects, enforce environmental norms for approvals and impose penalties on polluters.
The government’s latest stand may invite the court’s ire since a bench led by Justice A K Patnaik had last week refused to entertain a plea by the MoEF to grant six more months to set up the regulator.
Reminding the government that the SC order to set up the regulator was issued in 2011, the bench had given it 10 days to comply and file an affidavit by May 5, the next date of hearing.
However, the MoEF has now brought to the notice of the court a cabinet note of April 25 wherein it has been asserted that views of various ministries had to be taken into account before the decision.
The affidavit added that the MoEF will need to write to all the state governments seeking their comments on the proposal by June 15. “After the aforesaid consultation, the MoEF will place the matter again before the cabinet by June 30. Thereafter, the MoEF will file an affidavit before this court by July 15,” it stated.
Justice A K Patnaik, who is heading the green bench of the SC and has been nudging the government to set up the regulator, demits his office on June 2. Justice Patnaik had earlier censured the government for its failure to comply with the directive passed in the 2011 Lafarge judgement.
The court had raised doubts if the process was being delayed since the government did not want to give up its exclusive power of granting environmental clearances.
“Even your PM has in his speech said a national environment regulator was being set up. Where is it? It has been long. This order was passed in July 2011 and we are more than two years down the line, but it is not there,” the bench had told Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran.
Subsequently, the MoEF filed an affidavit, contending that creation of such an authority was “not feasible” and it may face infrastructural issues, like the National Green Tribunal. The Bench, however, junked the government’s contention.