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Supreme Court Asks Centre If It Proposes To Create Indian Environment Service

Sohini Chowdhury
21 Jan 2022 9:25 AM GMT
Supreme Court Asks Centre If It Proposes To Create Indian Environment Service
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On Friday, the Supreme Court issued notice in a Public Interest Litigation seeking creation of the fourth All India Service, the "Indian Environment Service", for protection and conservation of the environment. A Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh observed that the TSR Subramanian Committee, which was constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest...

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued notice in a Public Interest Litigation seeking creation of the fourth All India Service, the "Indian Environment Service", for protection and conservation of the environment.

A Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh observed that the TSR Subramanian Committee, which was constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and bestowed with the mandate to review the environmental laws in the country had, inter alia, recommended the creation of a new All Indian Service, i.e. "Indian Environment Service". The Bench was doubtful if any mandamus could be issued for creation of such a service, but it suggested that an enquiry be conducted as to whether the Central Government proposes to adopt the recommendation of the said Committee.

"The prayer made is for creation of an "independent" "Environment Service'' in All India Service. This prayer is stated to be arising from the recommendation of the TSR Subramanian Committee. Prima facie it is doubtful whether any mandamus can be issued for creation of the service, but it is suggested that an enquiry may be made as to whether the Government proposes to act in pursuance to the High Level Committee or not. Issue Notice."

At the outset Senior Advocate, Mr. K. Sultan Singh appearing on behalf of the Petitioner submitted that the present petition seeks the Court's intervention in constitution of a High Power Body for protection and monitoring of environmental projects at the field level.

Hesitant to indulge, the Bench remarked, "Do we take over the governance?"

Mr. Singh asserted that the manner in which the Government deals with the subject is not proper. He pointed out that the entire environmental jurisdiction has been developed by the Supreme Court in exercise of Article 32 of the Constitution of India and the Government has not really taken any proactive steps right from the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy till date.

"It affects the manner in which the entire subject is being dealt with by the Government. Entire environmental jurisprudence has taken place under Article 32. Government has never appreciated anything right from the Bhopal gas tragedy till date."

The Bench enquired, "What do you want? What is the direction?"

Mr. Singh responded that the petition was with respect to the constitution of a High Power Body.

On perusal of the prayer clause, the Bench stated, "So, we should create an independent Environment Service in All India Service level?"

Mr. Singh apprised the Court that the prayer sought is in consonance with the recommendation of the TSR Subramanian Committee.

The Petition filed by Advocate-on-Record, Mr. Samar Vijay Singh noted that though a comprehensive legislative framework has been adopted to address environmental concerns, one of the major causes for environmental degradation is the lacunae in enforcement of the existing laws by the environmental institutions. There is a lack of effective coordination amongst Ministries and Intuitions on the issues of environmental concern and also a dearth of trained personnel in administration, policy formulation and policy implementation. In view of the same, the Petitioner submitted that the creation of the All India Service "Indian Environment Service" is the need of the hour.

Providing a detailed elucidation of the constant degradation of our ecosystem, the Petitioner submitted that there is a need for special attention from the Civil Service as well as from the Government. Therefore, he contended that it is high time that a separate All India Service comprising domain experts, is constituted for protecting the environment. Referring to M.C. Mehta v. Union of India And Ors. (2019) 17SCC 490, the Petitioner asserted the right to clean environment under Article 21. He also relied on M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (2004)112 SCC 118, to emphasise on the importance of green economy and sustainable development. He submitted that to ensure sustainable development, policies ought to be implemented and the constitution of a new All India Service would facilitate the process.

The Petitioner emphasised on the observation made by the TSR Subramanian Committee, which reported -

"While India has a strong environmental policy and legislative framework, much of the problem relates to weak implementation of the various acts and the rules thereunder. Conservation advocates, project proponents and judiciary – none is satisfied with current environmental governance and the policy tools currently deployed in the management of the sector."

The Committee further recommended, inter-alia, for the creation of a new All-India service i.e., the "Indian Environment Service" -

"9.2 Creation of a new All India Service – Indian Environment Service – Issues relating to the management of the environment are acquiring increasing significance.

'Environment' will play a large role in the overall governance paradigm. The public sector, including the Central and State Governments, and various other quasi-official bodies, such as corporations, municipal boards, enforcement agencies, as well as the industrial sectors will require reliable expertise of a high order in the management of environmental issues. Current approval systems and monitoring mechanism function in a quasi-amateurish manner, leading to sub-optimal management of environmental issues. It is now proposed that a new Indian Environment Service be created, as an All India Service, which will act as an expert group to man positions in this field in the public and quasi-governmental sectors over the next decades. It is suggested that an expert committee may examine the entry qualifications and other details, preferably for recruitment through open competition in consultation with the MoEF&CC, the DoPT and UPSC.

Recommendation: An Indian Environment Service may be created, as an All India Service, based on qualifications and other details prescribed by MoEF&CC/ DoPT/ UPSC."

[Case Title: Samar Vijay Singh v. Union of India And Ors. Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1137/2021]

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