Supreme Court judge Adarsh Kumar Goel, who retired on Friday, was appointed as the chairperson of National Green Tribunal. He is best remembered for passing the controversial judgment on diluting provisions of the SC/ST Act.
The post of the chairperson of the green tribunal, which disposes cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources, had been vacant for the past eight months after Justice Swatanter Kumar retired on December 19 after completing his five-year tenure.
Goel, who was elevated to Supreme Court on July 7, 2014, had previously served as Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court and prior to that, he was the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court. Born on July 7, 1953, Justice Goel had also held the position of executive chairman of the Haryana State Legal Services Authority. With the retirement of Goel, the strength of the Supreme Court goes down to 22 against a maximum of 31 judges.
Justice Goel and his colleague UU Lalit’s decision allowing anticipatory bail for the accused in certain cases registered under the SC/ST Act had led to widespread protests and violence by Dalit groups across the nation and led to seven deaths. The government has filed an appeal in the SC, which is currently pending.
Upon assuming office, Justice Goel will have his hands full and have to adjudicate on two crucial issues relating to the closure of Tamil Nadu’s Sterlite plant and the felling of trees in Delhi for construction projects. Till now, these cases were being heard by acting NGT chief Justice Jawad Rahim.
During his tenure as NGT chief, Justice Swatanter Kumar passed several landmark orders and judgments. These include the ban on 10-year-old diesel and 15-year-old petrol vehicles, the slew of directions for rejuvenation of the Ganga and Yamuna, the demolition of illegal hotels in Himachal Pradesh and the ban on plastic items in Delhi, Haridwar and Punjab.
The first chairperson of the tribunal was Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta, who was appointed on October 18, 2010, and relinquished the post in 2011 when he was made ‘lokayukta’ of Himachal Pradesh.