The National Green Tribunal today questioned state governments and Union Territories on top appointments in state pollution control boards and directed them to fill the vacancies with persons with requisite qualification within three months.
The green panel, which also issued a slew of guidelines for appointments to the posts of Chairman and Member Secretary, said the nominations should be of persons who have “special knowledge, practical experience or qualification in environment protection studies” and not on the ground of their association with state government.
“The State Governments/Union Territories shall constitute the Pollution Control Boards strictly in accordance to Section 4 of the Water Act and Section 5 of the Air Act, and the eligibility criteria…for appointment of Chairman/Member Secretary of the Board.
“State governments are to notify the rules under Water and Air Act expeditiously specifying the qualifications and experiences required for post of Chairman/Member Secretary. The post of Chairman/Member Secretary should be advertised and thrown open for all candidates irrespective of the fact whether they are in the government, academia or in private sector, so as to attract the best talent,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The judgement came on a plea by Uttarakhand resident Rajendra Singh Bhandari, who had challenged the constitution of state pollution control boards on the ground that people who did not qualify were appointed as Chairman, Member Secretary and Members of these boards.
According to the plea, these appointments are bound to affect environmental issues seriously in as much as the grant of consents under Prevention and Control of Pollution Act and the entire regulatory regime depended on the effective working of these boards.
The tribunal said the Chairman or Member Secretary should have a fixed term, which should not be extended for more than one term. Such persons should not hold office in the Board in accordance to their tenure in State Government.
“The State Government and all competent Authorities shall proceed to make appointment/ nomination of the Members of the Board as per categorisation and subject to the limitations of number provided under Section 4 and 5 of the Act of 1974 and 1981 respectively as expeditiously as possible, in any case not later than three months from the date of pronouncement of this judgment,” the bench also comprising Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore said.
Once a person with requisite eligibility is appointed in the state pollution control board, he should be allowed to continue for full tenure unless there are charges of misconduct, the bench said.
“A tenure unaffected by political and bureaucratic interference would be extremely important for the officials to function fearlessly and in accordance to the mandate of the legislation as given under relevant Environmental Protection Laws like Water Act, Air Act etc,” it said.
The tribunal said the states should have latest equipped laboratories for analysis of samples of trade effluents and asked the state governments to develop the infrastructure in the State Board by professional and technical officers to cope up with increase of industries and development centres.
With growing industrialisation and urbanisation, the state pollution control board had high responsibility and any appointment should be made only after coming to the conclusion that the person concerned has good knowledge in environment protection laws, gained through practice rather than theory, it said.
The NGT said despite clear provisions of law, guidelines by the Monitory Committee constituted by the Supreme Court and directions issued by the Centre, the qualifications of the persons who were being appointed by the State Governments did not show much improvement which affects the working of the State Pollution Control Boards and was resulting in degradation of environment.