Supreme Court: NGT does not have jurisdiction to interfere with appointments to State Pollution Control Boards

Team SoOLEGAL 23 Sep 2017 10:26am

Supreme Court: NGT does not have jurisdiction to interfere with appointments to State Pollution Control Boards

The Supreme Court has held that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) does not have the jurisdiction to interfere with the appointments of to State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) or lay down specific rules and guidelines for recruitment of the Chairperson and members of SPCBs.

The judgment, which was passed by Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, however, took note of the failure of various State governments to appoint professional and experienced persons to key positions in the SPCBs and directed the States to frame appropriate recruitment rules within six months to govern such appointments to SPCBs.

The judgment was passed in a batch of appeals directed against the judgment and order dated 24th August, 2016 passed by the NGT Principal Bench, New Delhi.

The NGT, perturbed and anguished that some persons appointed to the SPCBs did not have the necessary expertise or qualifications to be members or chairpersons of such statutory bodies directed the State governments to reconsider the appointments.

The Supreme Court made it clear that the said exercise of power by the NGT clearly exceeded its jurisdiction.

“While we fully commiserate with the NGT and share the pain and anguish, we are of the view that the Tribunal has, at law, exceeded its jurisdiction in directing the State Governments to reconsider the appointments and in laying down guidelines for appointment to the SPCBs, however well-meaning they might be. Therefore, we set aside the decision of the NGT…”

Placing reliance on the provisions of NGT Act, 2010, the Court held that the NGT can only deal with a substantial question relating to environment that question must arise in a dispute – it should not be an academic question.

“There must also be a claimant raising that dispute which dispute is capable of settlement by the NGT by the grant of some relief which could be in the nature of compensation or restitution of property damaged or restitution of the environment and any other incidental or ancillary relief connected therewith.

The appointment of the Chairperson and members of the SPCBs cannot be classified in any circumstance as a substantial question relating to the environment. At best it could be a substantial question relating to their appointment.”

The Court, therefore, held that the NGT cannot go into the question of appointments to SPCBs and only a Constitutional court has the authority to determine such an issue.

“While we appreciate the anxiety of the NGT to preserve and protect the environment as a part of its statutory functions, we cannot extend these concepts to the extent of enabling the NGT to consider who should be appointed as a Chairperson or a member of any SPCB or who should not be so appointed.

….it would have been more appropriate for the NGT to have required the claimant to approach a constitutional court for the relief prayed for in the original application. To this extent therefore, the direction given by the NGT must be set aside as being without jurisdiction.”

The Court, then proceeded to take note of what it termed as a large number of disconcerting facts which have been brought out in the judgment which need serious consideration by those in authority, particularly the State Governments that make appointments or nominations to the SPCBs.

“Such appointments should not be made casually or without due application of mind considering the duties, functions and responsibilities of the SPCBs…….protection and preservation of the environment is extremely vital for all of us and unless this responsibility is taken very seriously, particularly by the State Governments and the SPCBs, we are inviting trouble that will have adverse consequences for future generations. Issues of sustainable development, public trust and intergenerational equity are not mere catch words, but are concepts of great importance in environmental jurisprudence.”

The Court opined that there should be considerable deliberation before an appointment is made and only the best should be appointed to the SPCB. It, therefore, proceeded to direct the States to frame guidelines and recruitment rules within six months to ensure that suitable professionals are appointed to SPCBs.

“Keeping the above in mind, we are of the view that it would be appropriate, while setting aside the judgment and order of the NGT, to direct the Executive in all the States to frame appropriate guidelines or recruitment rules within six months, considering the institutional requirements of the SPCBs and the law laid down by statute, by this Court and as per the reports of various committees and authorities and ensure that suitable professionals and experts are appointed to the SPCBs.”

Interestingly, the Court also made it clear that public spirited individuals will be at liberty to move appropriate High Court if any person who does not meet the statutory or constitutional requirements is appointed as a Chairperson or a member of any SPCB.

Source: Barandbench

Tagged: Supreme Court   Justices Madan B Lokur   National Green Tribunal  
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