Supreme Court Approves Establishment of Permanent Environmental Experts Body
Last updated on August 21st, 2023 at 12:05 pm
The Supreme Court of India has given the Union government permission to create a permanent council of experts to deal with environmental and forest cases, a significant development aimed at improving environmental governance. This action replaces the central empowered committee’s (CEC) ad hoc experts’ panel, which for the past 20 years has supported the Court in areas including mining permits and permissions for projects within forests.
The government’s request was approved by a two-judge panel chaired by BR Gavai and PK Mishra, who emphasised that making the CEC a permanent body instead of an ad hoc one would be in the interests of all parties involved. The bench contended that this choice would improve the CEC’s operations and decision-making procedures by bringing stability and uniformity, which would benefit both environmental protection and economic growth programs.
Following the Supreme Court’s approval, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) will be able to announce the creation of the permanent CEC formally. The MoEF&CC is anticipated to publish the final notification next week.
Five specialists, including a chairperson, with in-depth knowledge of environmental, forestry, and animal issues, will make up the reorganised CEC. The terms of office for the new body’s members are three years. In addition to enabling the permanent CEC to participate in the Court’s discussions on environmental matters more effectively, its composition will allow the Central government to request recommendations from the committee on various issues.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta produced a draft notification to request permission from the Court to create the new CEC. Once approved by the Court, the administration will use this document as the foundation for its official announcement of the creation of the permanent CEC.
The Court approved the request to institute a recurring audit of the CEC’s performance in response to suggestions made by amicus curiae K Parameshwar. This would guarantee the organisation’s responsibility and effectiveness in its duties. A biennial audit of the CEC’s operations by the MoEF&CC and provisions for quarterly reporting were both confirmed by Solicitor General Mehta in the final notification.
The choice to establish a permanent body was made due to issues with the ad hoc CEC’s functionality. The CEC’s suggestion contradicted a Court ruling about a building project, which clarified the Court’s displeasure. The Court highlighted that the CEC should not serve as an “appellate authority” over its rulings but should instead actively and effectively contribute to environmental protection.
This significant ruling is consistent with a broader trend in India’s legal system, where expert panels are institutionalised to guide the judiciary on complex issues. In 2020, the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) will change into the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas, and the CEC will become a permanent organisation.
It is believed that creating a permanent CEC will improve environmental governance, guarantee informed choice-making, and strike a balance between conservation and development objectives.