I found this article on the working of Environmental Tribunal and thought of sharing with you all.
Environmental Tribunal of no use, says HC
Krishnadas Rajagopal in Indian Express,
Monday , Oct 19, 2009 at 0350 hrsNew Delhi:
India's top environmental tribunal is of no use, the Delhi High Court says, adding the body has neither expertise nor infrastructure.
Here are a few samples of how the tribunal, National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA), has functioned in the past three years.
K Prasad, a former member, made an official trip to Tirupati temple to discuss “disposal of cut hair” on September 16, 2007. He also went to Ahmadnagar to discuss the “disposal of flowers” at the Shirdi temple the same year and to Sahni Signapur temple to “discuss recycling of mustard oil” at the holy place.
His colleague on the tribunal Bench, J C Kala, has a track record of combining business with sports meets. On January 31, 2008, he managed to attend the 16th All India Sports Meet and at the same time discuss “various projects” with Pollution Control Board (PCB) officers at Ahmedabad. This trip was a follow-up of his earlier one on February 6, 2007 to the 15th All India Forests Sports Meet to Jaipur.
This information came out in a PIL filed by environment lawyer Pramod Kumar before the court. The data on the functioning of the NEAA was revealed through a series of RTI applications filed by Vyom Raghuvanshi, a wildlife scientist, in 2008.
NEAA maintained the visits were necessary. “The members took the trips to spread awareness about the National Environment Appellate Authority,” Prasad told The Indian Express. Prasad did 16 “official tours” in the past three years.
The NEAA claims that the members use the “observation/knowledge” received from these trips to better disposal of appeals before them, but admits that none of them ever filed the minutes of meetings.
During the hearing of the PIL on Wednesday, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah told the government counsel: “The tribunal is of no use. It is full of bureaucrats who are of no use. There is not a single expert on the Bench. Have you brought this to the notice of your minister?”
The NEAA was set up in January 1997 to decide appeals for grant of environment clearances to industries. But the tribunal has not conducted site visits for three years, subscribes to only one environmental magazine for Rs 720 a year, has no separate e-mail or official website and has no daily attendance records, the PIL alleges.
“Without a website, how is a litigant in a far-flung area of the country supposed to hear of an order passed by the tribunal,” Justice S Muralidhar, a fellow judge on the Bench remarked.
“What an excellent track record for the tribunal,” the Bench snubbed the government. “The court directed the ministry lawyer to bring the irregularities of the tribunal to the immediate notice of the Environment Minister. The Bench, taking a stern view of the conduct of the members, asked the Additional Solicitor General to represent the ministry on the next date of hearing in the PIL on October 20,” advocate Ritwick Dutta, counsel for Promod Kumar, said.
The first chairperson, Justice N Venkatachalaiah, was appointed on April 9, 1997 and retired three years later. Since then, the tribunal had been functioning with three members — Dr I V Manivarnan, who retired as Commissioner of Rehabilitation, Government of Tamil Nadu, Kala who retired as D-G and Special Secretary to Government of India and Prasad, a former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests from Uttar Pradesh.
A December 2008 RTI reply from Dr Jag Ram, a senior ministry official, points out that there was no selection process or expert panel to hire the three members who ought to be experts in environment impact assessment processes as per the law. No ads were published in newspapers to invite candidates.
Ram says Kala had recommended Prasad. Manivarnan in December 2004 sent a letter on his “34 years of rich experience”, saying “I (Manivarnan) offer myself for the post of Member in any of the Environmental Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India”.
Prasad and Manivarnan retired in May and August 2009, respectively. Kala will retire on October 31.
“NEAA has not engaged any technical or scientific experts for seeking expert advice with respect to cases before it. There is no record of having given orientation for conducting hearings before joining the NEAA,” says an RTI response from NEAA Section Officer C L Dogra. But he adds: “The members have practical experience”.
The environment ministry filed an affidavit this year stating that the National Green Tribunal Bill, 2009 has been approved by the Union Cabinet and cleared by the Lok Sabha. The Green Tribunal is meant to replace the NEAA.
The source article can be found at: