The Delhi High Court today asked the Centre to expedite the process of appointing judicial and expert members in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar was informed by the Centre’s counsel that steps have been taken to fill the vacant posts of judicial and expert members in the NGT and assured that it would be done expeditiously.
The court, which listed the matter for next hearing on October 31, was hearing a PIL filed by lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal, seeking filling up of vacancies in the NGT. Central government standing counsel Jasmeet Singh said the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has given two advertisements for inviting applications for five posts of judicial members and seven posts of expert members and the last date of receiving applications is September 18.
Advocate Summer Sodhi, representing Bansal, said if the appointments are not made at the earliest, then after December 9, the NGT will have only two judicial members as against 10 members provided under the law. The counsel said that as on February 13, 2018, only three expert members will remain as against a minimum of 10 members. The court had earlier expressed concern over the posts of judicial and expert members in the NGT falling vacant in the near future and asked the government if it wanted to wind up the environmental protection body.
The petitioner had said that “due to the red-tapism involved in the bureaucracy, a fine institution like the NGT is heading towards a premature death.”
The court was also informed that on account of retirement of most of its members, two zonal benches of the NGT would stop functioning by October. The petition has said that currently, there were eight judicial members and six expert members in the NGT. With the retirements due, after December 9, the number of expert members would come down to two and after February 13, 2018, only three judicial members would be left in the panel. “The lackadaisical attitude and apathy of the government in not filling up the vacancies in the posts of judicial and expert members is intriguing and appalling,” the petition has said.