NGT appointment proposals sent to ACC, Centre tells SC

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New Delhi: The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the proposals regarding appointments to the National Green Tribunal have been forwarded to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari said the matter cannot brook any further delay due to the piquant situation created, as a result of which the NGT is working with less than the minimum statutory strength.

For the time being, without saying anything further, we defer the hearing of this matter for four weeks with a sanguine hope that appropriate decision including appointment orders will be issued to the concerned incumbents who may join immediately thereafter, the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman told the top court that proposals regarding appointment of judicial as well as technical members have been sent to the ACC which has the authority to take final decision.

The top court said a copy of this order be placed before the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, for information and necessary action and to submit compliance report.

The apex court had earlier asked for speeding up the process of filling up the NGT vacancies to address the “piquant situation” created due to reduced working strength of the green panel.

It had requested the Selection Committee to expedite the processes so that the appointment letters are issued in time.

The apex court was earlier informed that as on July 23, 2020, there were seven vacant posts of judicial members and six vacant posts of expert members in the National Green Tribunal.

“In addition, it is reported that one expert member had tendered resignation on July 17, 2020 and one expert member superannuated on July 30 but is continuing in office in terms of the order, the apex court had noted.

The top court was told that the government had already published advertisement for filling up nine vacancies for judicial members vide notification dated July 31, 2020 and the process of filling up of six vacant posts of expert members is at an advance stage.

The apex court had earlier termed as “appalling” the vacancy situation in the National Green Tribunal and directed the government to notify all the existing vacancies at one go in the next six months.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by the NGT Bar Association (western zone) regarding vacancies in the NGT and seeking expeditious appointments.

There are currently six members at the tribunal three judicial members and three expert members apart from the Chairman, former Supreme Court judge, Justice A K Goel.

The NGT Act stipulates five zones – northern, southern, central, eastern and western and mandates appointment of a chairman and 20 members — 10 judicial and 10 expert — who constitute the benches.

India’s top environmental watchdog NGT was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

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