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Govt in dark on its own proposal

The Environment Ministry has proposed that the National Environment Protection Agency implement all environment laws by subsuming existing bodies, but it does not have records of how the proposal was conceptualised.

delhi Updated: Sep 11, 2010 23:44 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The Environment Ministry has proposed that the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) implement all environment laws by subsuming existing bodies, but it does not have records of how the proposal was conceptualised.

Ministry officials admitted to the Central Information Commission that "the evolution of the process of formulation of NEPA was inaccessible and untraceable" and explained that day-to-day meetings between superior and subordinate were unminuted.

"The outcome of such informal meetings were instrumental in evolving the process of development of the NEPA," the ministry's public information officer said at a CIC hearing.

Information Commissioner Annupurna Dixit pulled up the ministry for taking important policy decisions at 'informal' meetings and expressed displeasure that the meetings remained unminuted, considering that their outcome was instrumental in the process of development of NEPA.

"It is pertinent that the respondent public authority makes a conscious effort to exactly define and clarify as to what is understood by the terms "formal" and "informal" in their parlance and thereafter in compliance with Section 4 (2) of the RTI Act ensure that minutes of meetings are displayed on its website," Dixit said in her order.

The information commissioner also expressed dismay that the information, which the public information officer claimed was voluminous, was actually not so bulky. Dixit directed him to allow Kanchi Kohli (NGO Kalpvakrish) to inspect all files related to NEPA.

"The appellant to approach the respondent seeking inspection of documents on a mutually convenient date and time and upon identifying the relevant pages required by her, 50 pages of information be provided free of cost to her," the order said.

Kanchi Kohli had sought information on the setting up of NEPA to replace existing environment regulatory bodies after the ministry put up a draft for public consultation on September 2009.

The idea of NEPA came into being after Jairam Ramesh took over as environment minister in June 2009. But the ministry had no records of deliberations for approving the NEPA concept but had only documents related to consultations.