Authority to hear green cases headless for eight yearsJanuary 7th, 2009 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) Set up in 1997 to lessen the increasing burden of environment-related public interest petitions on the judicial system, the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) has been without a head for over eight years.There is no website or address through which people can access the authority with their green grievances.
Despite several directives by the Delhi High Court, the latest being last month, the central government has failed to appoint any retired apex court judge or former chief justice of the high court to serve as NEAA chairman since 2000.
“You did not find a judge for eight years? Remarkable…Who else can be appointed as chairperson in place of a retired chief justice of the high court or a retired Supreme Court judge?” a bench headed by Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S. Muralidhar told the government counsel in December.
In 2005, following a public interest petition, the court had asked the government to clear proposals related to the appointment of chairman as well as other technical members and reconstitute the authority within 45 days. But nothing has happened.
The government, which has been slammed by the court on several occasions for its outlandish and lackadaisical approach, comes up with excuses at every hearing.
The court was informed by the centre in October last year that the ministry of environment had been unable to get hold of the phone numbers of retired chief justices of the Delhi High Court or even Supreme Court judges in order to contact them!
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P.P. Malhotra during the December hearing submitted that no judge was coming forward to the accept the post.
But the bench said: “If you were serious about the issue, you could have amended the act,” the bench said referring to the act under which the NEAA was set up.
The bench also said the remuneration fixed by the government for the post did not match the amount for those of judicial officer rank.
The bench reserved its judgment and said, “We will decide the perks and salary as per law.”
As far as other members of the NEAA was concerned, counsel appearing for the petitioner informed the court that three of those appointed were not technical experts.
“The three members are Indian Forest Service (IFS) officials although they are not technically sound and have no expertise in matters concerning environmental clearances,” counsel said.
Counsel also mentioned that in the absence of a chairman, there is no mechanism to approach the authority. “There is no mechanism…No website, no address, people do not have knowledge about the authority,” he said.