On what basis did the Ministry of Environment & Forests select members for the high-level committee (HLC) that recently reviewed the various environment laws? And did this HLC have the approval from the Prime Minister?
The EIA Resource and Response Centre, an NGO working towards environment protection, put forth these question to the MoEF through an RTI application filed by environmental activist Rohit Choudhury.
To the query for bio-data of the members of HLC, the Central Public Information Officer of the Ministry said, “...the requisite information is not available with the CPIO”.
To another query, the Ministry said the HLC has been formed under the rules and regulations notified under an Act of Parliament, however, there was no specific mention under which Act of Parliament it was constituted.
Environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta said: “Here is a HLC that has been formed to review so many environmental laws. But the irony is that a committee is formed to review such important laws and it was not clear under which law it itself had been constituted. Everything about the HLC seems to be a hurried job to dilute the laws. This only reflects the casual manner in which the committee has been formed.”
Mr. Dutta added, “The Ministry does not have their bio-data. We wanted to know on what basis did they select the very members for the committee.”
The government had in September formed the HLC to review Environment Protection Act, Wildlife Protection Act, Water Act, Air Act, Forest Act and suggest appropriate amendments after assessing the status of their implementation vis-à-vis their objectives and after considering various court orders and judicial pronouncements relating to these Acts.
The HLC was headed by former Cabinet Secretary of India T.S.R Subramanian and has Viswanath Anand, former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Justice (retd.) A.K. Srivastav, retired Judge of Delhi High Court and K.N. Bhat, senior advocate of Supreme Court and former Additional Solicitor General of India as members.
It has submitted its report to the government and sources said it has suggested single-window clearance system for projects, bringing noise pollution within the ambit of green laws, among others.