The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation praying for appointment of judicial officers in the National Green Tribunal, which is reduced to eight judicial and six expert members, as opposed to a minimum strength of 10 prescribed in the National Green Tribunal Act and is headed towards a “premature death”.
The high court has called for a status report to be filed and fixed the PIL for September 14.
The PIL has been filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who has been active in the field of environmental cases and has been raising voice against issues like contamination of groundwater in Uttar Pradesh.
The PIL says section 4 of the NGT Act, 2010, clearly lays down that the NGT shall consist of a fulltime chairperson and not less than 10, but subject to a maximum of 20, judicial members. The same is the limit for expert members.
“It is crystal clear from the above that the intention of the Parliament of India is that at no time, posts of Judicial Members as well as Expert members should come to less than 10.
“Petitioner learnt that due to the lack of Quorum, an Order dated May 30, 2017 issued by National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, was stayed on June 28, 2017 by the High Court Of Judicature At Hyderabad. This is one such case. However the undeniable situation which is possibly going to arise in future due to non-appointments by the Government of the day requires immediate orders,” said Mr Bansal’s counsel Sumeer Sodhi.
The petition says the current strength of NGT is 8 judicial members and 6 expert members and after February 13, 2018, strength of judicial members would come down to three whereas the strength of expert members will be reduced to 2 after December 9 this year as the members retire.
It is to be noted that NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar would retire on December 31, 2017.
Mr. Bansal said in the petition that the lackadaisical attitude of Centre in making appointments to the NGT is “intriguing and appalling”.
He said it is a breach of duty of the Centre that it has not been making necessary appointments to the tribunal.
“It is perhaps due to redtapism involved in the bureaucracy that a fine judicial institution such as the National Green Tribunal is headed towards its pre-mature death. Further the Petitioner submits that another reason for this delay on the part of the Government of the day in appointing Members of the Tribunal can possibly be the ill-intention of not letting the Tribunal function,” the petition states.