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Delhi-Dehradun Expressway Project : Supreme Court Reconstitutes Oversight Committee

Shruti Kakkar
19 April 2022 6:07 AM GMT
Delhi-Dehradun Expressway Project : Supreme Court Reconstitutes Oversight Committee
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday reconstituted the expert committee formed by the National Green Tribunal to oversee the compensatory afforestation for the Delhi-Dehradun Expressway project by including additional members.The Court directed that the Chairperson of the Committee will be Mr.CP Goyal, Director-General of Forests, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. As per the NGT...

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reconstituted the expert committee formed by the National Green Tribunal to oversee the compensatory afforestation for the Delhi-Dehradun Expressway project by including additional members.

The Court directed that the Chairperson of the Committee will be Mr.CP Goyal, Director-General of Forests, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. As per the NGT order, the Chief Secretary of the Uttarakhand Government was the Committee Chairman. The Supreme Court clarified that the replacement of the Chairperson should not be seen as an expression of lack of confidence on the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary. The Court added that it is recasting the Committee to "ensure that a broad understanding is facilitated in carrying out the work of implementation".

The Court also included Dr.Anil Prakash Joshi, founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO) and environmentalist Vijay Dhasmana as additional members in the Oversight Committee.

A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Aniruddha Bose passed the order in an appeal filed by NGO "Citizens for Green Doon" challenging the NGT order which did not accept the challenge to grant of forest clearance for the project. However, the NGT constituted an oversight committee to ensure that mitigation measures are implemented and monitored on the ground and are overseen by an independent mechanism. As per the NGT order, the twelve-member Expert Committee was headed by Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand, with WII, CPCB, Uttarakhand State PCB, Chief WildLife Wardens, Uttarakhand and UP, SEIAA Uttarakhand, FRI, Dehradun, Divisional Commissioners, Saharanpur and Dehradun and Conservators of Forest, Dehradun and Saharanpur, Chief WildLife Wardens, Uttarakhand as members.

Senior Advocate Ritwick Dutta, appearing for the appellant, had proposed that independent members be added as the Committee was composed mostly by officials. The Attorney General for India KK Venugopal, appearing for the Union Government and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the National Highway Authority of India, agreed that independent members could be added to the Committee. Accordingly, the bench had asked the parties to suggest the names of independent experts.

Today, Mr.Dutta submitted the names of Mr Bibhash Pandav, faculty of the Wildlife Institute of India, Retired Gen MK Singh who headed scientific cutting of trees, and Vijay Dhasmana. The AG said that Pandav may not be included as he is junior to the Director of the WII. The AG proposed the name of Dr.Joshi.

"Anil Prakash Joshi he can be the 1st one- environmentalist, Green Activist- he has coined gross environment product and was he is recipient of Jaman Lal Bajaj Award. He was also awarded Padma Bhushan", the AG said.

"Gen MK Singh, he is 85 years old", the SG said.

"You can't say that when the AG is here", Justice Chandrachud said in a lighter vein.

Dutta proposed that the Chairman of the Committee be replaced with D-G Forests. He pointed out that out of the 20 kilometers road, only 4 kilometres are passing through Uttarakhand. So, he questioned the rationale of making the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand the Chairman of the Committee.

The Bench agreed to appoint D-G Forests of MoEF&CC as the Commitee Chairman. 

 The Bench accepted the names of Dr.Joshi and Mr.Dhasmana. Accepting the requests made by the AG and the SG, the Bench clarified that the order will not be treated as a precedent.

Mr. Dutta raised three issues :

Height of the underpass/flyover

Compensatory afforestation.

All mitigation measures should not be diluted and should be strengthened.

The Bench said that the suggestions made by the appellants may be borne in mind by the Oversight Committee. The Bench further clarified that the questions of law raised in the matter are left open.

Case Title: Citizens for Green Doon v. Union of India And Ors. Civil Appeal No. 2570-2571 of 2022

Click Here To Read/Download Order



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