In a landmark judgment, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered the creation of an ‘ Environment Fund ’ which can be considered for payment of costs being imposed in various matters and the amount so collected will then be used for plantation, cleaning of water bodies etc.
Justice D Krishnakumar so ordered while disposing of a matter where the parties had arrived at a settlement and the respondents had expressed their willingness to contribute some amount to any welfare organisation.
At this, Justice Krishnakumar stressed on the right to clean environment and the fundamental duty to protect the natural environment.
“…this Court is of the firm view that protection of environment, by planting more trees would help clean environment and effectively combat drastic and dangerous pollution. In matters, where parties were voluntarily willing to contribute some amount to any welfare measures, this Court, on earlier occasions was ordering remittance of amounts to various organizations under different heads. Therefore, this Court is of the firm view that it is appropriate that the cost should also be paid to the ‘Environmental Fund’ for the purpose of plantation etc,” he said.
The court then passed following guidelines to the Tamil Nadu Legal Services Authority, Chennai:
1) The Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai, shall open a separate account under the head ‘Environmental Fund’, so as to deposit the amounts received from various courts under this head and to be utilized for the purposes narrated hereunder.
2) The amount received under the head ‘Environmental Fund’ shall be utilized for the purpose of planting, developing and maintaining trees by the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai.
3) The said fund can also be made use of for the purposes of cleaning and maintaining water bodies, which are the streams of life.
4) The Taluk Legal Services Committees can identify the places to plant saplings, with the help of the officials of the local bodies and submit a proposal to the District Legal Services Authority concerned, mentioning clearly the variety and number of saplings proposed to be planted, the costs involved therein, including fencing. The Taluk Legal Services Committees shall ensure proper watering and maintenance of the saplings through the respective local bodies, PWD, voluntary organisations and NGOs.
5)The District Legal Services Authorities shall submit a consolidated proposal to the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai, requesting for release of amounts from the ‘Environmental Fund’ towards planting, developing and maintaining trees in the court/public premises by specifying clearly the type and number of saplings required, cost involved therein etc. The procurement, to the extent possible, shall be from the district forest/horticulture departments.
6) While doing plantation, development and maintenance of plants, the District Legal Services Authority/Taluk Legal Services Committee can make use of the services of the respective officials in the forest department/horticulture department/PWD/local authorities and ensure proper watering, fencing etc., of the saplings so planted.
7) The District Legal Services Authority/Taluk Legal Services Committee can take expert advice of the forest department/horticulture department/local authorities in choosing the type of saplings to be planted in a specific area, by keeping in mind the local environmental conditions and healthy growth of the plants and also the usage of the plants.
8) If fruit/vegetable bearing trees are planted, the District/Taluk Legal Services Authority concerned would take steps to market the produce, if any from such plantations and remit such amounts in the account maintained by the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai, under the head ‘Environment Fund’.
9) A similar account may also be opened by the Member Secretary, Puducherry Legal Services Authority, and follow the above directions.
10) The Registry is directed to circulate a copy of this Order to all the subordinate courts in the state of Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Puducherry, after obtaining necessary orders from the Chief Justice, so that the Presiding Officers of the respective Courts, while ordering costs to be paid by the parties in any matter, may consider direction to the respective parties for payment of the costs towards the ‘Environmental Fund’ maintained by the Member Secretary of the respective State Legal Services Authority.
11) Whenever costs are ordered and received by any of the courts under the abovesaid fund, the same shall be remitted to the account of the ‘Environmental Fund’, to be maintained hereafter by the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority without any delay and communication in this regard shall be sent immediately to the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai, with a copy marked to the respective District Legal Services Authority. For this purpose, a separate challan book may be maintained by the respective courts, if need be. The procedural instructions, needed in effective implementation, can be issued by the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai and the Member Secretary, Puducherry State Legal Services Authority, Pondicherry, as and when required.
12) The above instructions will also apply mutatis mutandis to the high court legal services committee, both at the principal seat and at Madurai bench, who shall coordinate with the respective district legal services authorities i.e., Chennai and Madurai District Legal Services Authorities and the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority.
13) While at the principal seat, the costs so ordered by the courts to be remitted by the parties directly at the office of the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai, at Madurai bench, the said amounts shall be collected by the registry through the accounts section and then credited into the account maintained by the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, immediately.
After the court’s order regarding ‘Environment Fund’, the two respondents in the instant case voluntarily came forward to contribute some amount to the Taluk Legal Services Committee, Kangeyam, Tirupur district, under the Head of ‘Environmental Fund’ to preserve the environment and were allowed to do so.
Justice Krishnakumar ordered the Secretary of the Taluk Legal Services Committee, Kangeyam, Tirupur District, to receive the amount and use it for the purposes spelt out by him and then send a report to the Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, Chennai, mentioning clearly the amounts spent towards the purposes mentioned above and the balance amount left.
Read the Order Here