‘Finance Act diluting powers of tribunals, including NGT’: SC seeks Centre’s response to plea
Under the Finance Act, the government framed the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 which affected terms of service of 19 tribunals.india Updated: Jul 29, 2017 23:17 IST
The Supreme Court sought response from the central government on a petition challenging the changes brought in by the Finance Act 2017 which it said would “destroy the independent functioning” of 19 odd tribunals including the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar sought reply from the centre on the plea which has challenged Part 14 of Finance Act 2017 and Tribunal Rules framed under it.
The Finance Act came into effect from April 1, 2017. Under it the government framed the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 which affected terms of service of 19 tribunals.
The petition filed by NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) has contended that the new rules gives the government “unbridled and completely unguided” power to decide the terms of service including appointments, term of office, salaries and allowances, and removal of tribunal members.
“The Impugned Tribunal Rules have severely diluted the minimum qualifications for appointment of members to the NGT (including the Chairperson and Judicial Members) such that there is a clear and present danger of persons being appointed as the Chairperson/Judicial Members of the NGT, who have no judicial or even legal training and experience,” the petition said.
The petition further contended that the new rules give “primacy to the executive in the appointment and removal of the members” of the tribunals such as NGT. This, the petition said, “severely affected” the independence of the tribunals.
It said the new rules is “destroying the separation of powers between the branches of government and independence of judiciary enshrined in the Constitution, in complete violation of the basic structure of the Constitution”.
The petition sought to quash Part 14 of the Finance Act and the entire Tribunal Rules 2017 saying it severely restrict the rights of the public to effectively access justice, in particular, in the context of the protection and enforcement of the right to a clean and healthy environment from NGT.