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SC Notice To Centre On Changes In NGT Act Effected By Finance Act, 2017 [Read Petition]

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a petition challenging the alterations brought about by the Finance Act, 2017, in the National Green Tribunal Act, which it says would weaken the functioning of the environment court and curtail its powers.

Chief Justice JS Khehar issued notice to the Centre and sought its reply on the petition filed by NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) through Advocate Ruchira Goel , which has challenged Part 14 of Finance Act 2017 and Tribunal Rules framed under it.

Counsel for the petitioner Vivek Chib argued that the new regime of appointment and removal of judges in tribunals introduced through the Finance Act is grossly unconstitutional and contrary to the recent judgments of the Supreme Court where the National Tax Tribunal Act was declared unconstitutional.

SAFE’s Vikrant Tongad said: “The petition deals with all the 19 statutory tribunals, but its focus is with regard to the dilution of the norms for appointment of judicial members by the Central Government leading to violation of the basic structure of constitution in terms separation of powers, rule of law and independence of judiciary. Its main concern is dilution of powers of the National Green Tribunal since we work in the field of environment. On the next date of hearing, the Supreme Court is to consider whether the operation of the Rules are to be stayed or not.”

“The impugned Tribunal Rules have severely diluted the minimum qualifications for the 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, and of persons without significant technical and scientific knowledge being appointed as Expert Members,” the petition stated.

It also highlighted how new rules also give primacy to the executive in the appointment and removal of the members (including the Chairperson and Judicial Members) of the NGT, thereby severely affecting the actual independence and separation of the tribunal from the government.

The NGT Act came into force on October 18, 2010.

The NGT started functioning in 2011 and has decided hundreds of cases of great significance like the Yamuna Rejuvenation Project and the Clean Ganga project, banning of diesel vehicles over 10 years old, banning crop burning and waste burning.

Under the Finance Act that came into effect from April 1, 2017, the Ministry of Finance framed the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017, which affected inter alia, the constitution, qualifications, appointment, removal and other terms and conditions of all the members of the 19 tribunals, including the NGT.

Read the Petition Here


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