ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Green Courts: Turf Wars

A bill drafted by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is presently doing the rounds of other ministries for comments, according to media reports. It proposes to abolish the special authorities constituted by the Supreme Court to deal with the 1,000-odd environment related cases in the court and set up separate “green courts”. To be called the Environment Tribunal Bill, it envisages setting up regional tribunals and one central National Environmental Tribunal at Delhi with jurisdiction over all cases within environmental laws. In 2003 the Law Commission had suggested the setting up of green courts. It is reported that in the bill under consultation, the central government will appoint the chairperson and all other members and will consult the chief justice, though neither his choice nor his approval will be binding on the government.

In the area of environment as in many other subjects, tensions have emerged between the judiciary on the one side and the legislature and executive on the other. As far as environmental jurisprudence is concerned, the Supreme Court set up a five-member central empowered committee (CEC) which functions like a judicial body and gives recommendations. Appointment to statutory bodies created under legislation is a prerogative of the executive, but a controversy rages over the CEC’s recommendation of names for the forest advisory committee (FAC), which gives permission for allocation of forest land for developmental works. Challenging the credentials of the persons recommended by the CEC, the MoEF rejected the names. This decision obviously displeased the judges and the Supreme Court, which had endorsed these names. On January 5, at a hearing before a three-member bench, the additional solicitor-general said that the court cannot stay the ministry’s notification reconstituting the FAC and asked whether the courts have the “jurisdiction to pass orders which...are contrary to the statutes”.

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