Why weakening of National Green Tribunal is bad news for India | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Why weakening of National Green Tribunal is bad news for India

By tweaking the appointment rules to National Green Tribunal, the NGT could become a parking lot for retired bureaucrats

editorials Updated: Jul 05, 2017 18:15 IST
The National Green Tribunal in New Delhi. The tribunal has been accused of judicial overreach by the government after showdown such as the cases in which it struck down environmental clearance
The National Green Tribunal in New Delhi. The tribunal has been accused of judicial overreach by the government after showdown such as the cases in which it struck down environmental clearance(Hindustan Times)

In 2010, Parliament enacted the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, which said that a judge of the Supreme Court or a chief justice of high court will be eligible to be chairperson or judicial member of the Tribunal. In six years since its formation in 2011, the NGT has emerged as an independent voice when it came to protecting the environment. It has pulled up the Centre for fast-tracking approvals and corporate groups for violating green approval conditions. But in the first week of June, the Centre modified the process of appointments to the NGT: Instead of a senior judge, its chairperson will now be recommended by a five-member panel, which will be led by the chief justice of India (CJI) or a nominee of the CJI, but a majority of the other members in the panel will be recommended by the environment ministry.

The NDA has been trying to curtail the NGT’s powers for some time. It set up the TSR Subramanian committee to review the country’s environment laws in 2014, which recommended dilution of the tribunal’s powers. The NDA, however, could not act as it would have lead to a political backlash. But it later merged eight autonomous tribunals with other tribunals, and also gave itself the power to appoint and remove the members in another 17 such bodies. The new uniform appointment rules for 19 tribunals were notified on June 1. They have taken away powers of the CJI to appoint and remove chairperson and judicial members to the tribunal; now it will be the environment ministry’s call.

Giving power to the executive to sack a retired judge is unprecedented. All this would ensure that judges may not join the tribunal and it could become a parking lot for retired bureaucrats, rendering the NGT ineffective for protecting the citizens’ rights to a clean, healthy and pollution-free environment.