SC questions government on green regulator appointment

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 10 2013, 08:34am hrs
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to apprise it within four weeks of the steps being taken for appointment of a national regulator for evaulating projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and imposition of penalties on violators.

A special green bench, headed by Justice AK Patnaik, asked Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran to apprise the court of the steps taken for the appointment of the regulator within four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on October 4.

You (MoEF) want to retain the power with it... you should confine yourself to the policy only, the bench observed, when Parasaran tried to inform the court that the government had already set up the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to deal with environmental issues.

NGT is above the regulator. The tribunal is an appellate body. Even the Prime minister himself said that they are going to set up a regulator. Then what is the problem asked Justice Patnaik the government after Amicus Curie Harish Salve informed the court that the Centre has not yet complied with its 2011 directions.

While permitting Lafarge of France to resume limestone mining in Meghalaya to feed its $255-million cement plant in Bangladesh, an apex court bench, headed by former Chief Justice SH Kapadia on July 6, 2011, had issued a series of guidelines for environmental clearance of projects in forest areas. It had asked the Centre to appoint a national regulator under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters.

Since there is no machinery even today established for implementation of the environmental and forest laws, the court had asked the Centre to appoint an appropriate authority, preferably in the form of regulator, at the state and at the Centre level for ensuring implementation of the National Forest Policy, 1988, which laid down far-reaching principles for the grant of permissions under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and provides the road map to ecological protection and environment improvement.

However, it clarified that the difference between a regulator and a court must be kept in mind before such an appointment.

The court, in its judgment, had also declared that the National Forest Policy, 1988, must necessarily govern the grant of permissions under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, as the same provides the road map to ecological protection and improvement under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

According to the judgment, the court/tribunal is basically an authority which reacts to a given situation brought to its notice whereas a regulator is a pro-active body with the power conferred upon it to frame statutory rules and regulations.