The confrontation between the Centre and the Supreme Court on the issue of constitution of the Forest Advisory Committee seems to be over for the time being with the Supreme Court allowing it to function with certain minor conditions.
A three-judge Forest Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan modified the court’s December 2006 order staying the government notification on constitution of the FAC following objections raised by the Amicus Curiae Harish Salve and the court-appointed Central Empowerd Committee over the appointment of members.
In fact, the government had rejected all the names proposed by the CEC on the FAC.
Accepting Additional Solicitor General Vikas Singh’s plea that several important industrial, mining and wildlife projects had been awaiting clearance since December 15, 2006, the court said the committee could start functioning.
Singh submitted that there was no case that the committee had been appointed against rules and norms or the members did not fulfil the eligibility criteria.
The court directed that all fresh cases of new projects should go to the government appointed FAC. All new cases seeking clearance for fresh projects will first go to the government nominated FAC which will give its advice on the project to the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) for consideration and the CEC will finally place its report before the apex court for clearance.
The projects, which have been cleared by the court-appointed FAC after September 15 2006, shall also be referred to the government nominated FAC.
The court also directed that the projects, which have already been cleared by the apex court, shall not require any fresh reference to any authority.
However, the Centre again confronted the apex court contending that there was no provision for judicial emergency in the constitution to authorise the court to take over the functions of the government in the matter of preservation of forests.
The said that the area under forests has improved not just because of the Supreme Court but because of the steps taken by the central government.