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Thursday, January 23, 2020

SC fumes as MoEF says NGT causing govt embarrassment

The Bench has now given the government two weeks to file an appropriate response.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: September 13, 2013 5:38:38 am

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has told the Supreme Court that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) was not acting as per the law and it caused “embarrassment” to the government in Parliament.

“The NGT is not functioning as per the provisions of the NGT Act. This has been resulting in embarrassment to the government before Parliament,” stated an affidavit by MoEF deputy secretary R K Agrawal.

The affidavit also illustrated the alleged instances of the NGT not acting as per the law. It pointed out that although the Act did not provide suo motu powers to the green tribunal and the government had also explicitly refused to give this power,the tribunal has issued suo motu notices.

Similarly,as per the affidavit,the law provided that number of expert members in a hearing shall not exceed the judicial members but the NGT was sitting in benches in violation of this rule. The MoEF also complained about the tribunal appointing Group D staff despite its opposition to the selection process.

“MoEF is more than eager to ensure the NGT is fully operationalised at the earliest and solicits cooperation of the NGT in this regard,” read the final paragraph of the affidavit.

The affidavit,however,invited the wrath of a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and V Gopala Gowda as it described the contentions as a “breach of all norms of decency”. It questioned who authorised a deputy secretary to issue comments on the functioning of the tribunal and dubbed his statements as contemptuous.

“If a deputy secretary level officer is allowed to attack the NGT,it is better the tribunal is wound up. At least in the eyes of this officer,the tribunal is an eyesore. It is the first time an officer of the government is attacking the tribunal. One sentence by us will be enough — NGT Act is repealed,” said the Bench. It said that the court was inclined to stay the NGT Act altogether and let all the pending litigation be transferred to the high court concerned.

Intervening,Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran requested the court to give the government one final opportunity to rectify its mistake. He accepted that the officer’s affidavit was inappropriate and that the government sought an opportunity to comply with the court’s directives.

Appearing for the NGT,Gopal Subramaniam censured the “audacity” of the government but agreed that now since the SG has shown up,they should be granted a final chance.

The Bench has now given the government two weeks to file an appropriate response.

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