‘No single-judge NGT Bench can hear cases’

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that no single-judge Bench be constituted to hear and decide matters in the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra is hearing a petition filed by the NGT Bar Association challenging the constitutional validity of the NGT (Practices and Procedures) Amendment Rules, 2017, which allows even a single-member Bench to perform judicial functions.

“Let us tell you very candidly. We cannot allow single-judge Benches [at NGT],” the Supreme Court Bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said.

The Bench asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to advise the NGT’s Acting Chairperson against setting up of a single-judge Bench, either at the head branch or zonal branches of the tribunal.

Judicial function

When Mr. Venugopal submitted that there were large number of vacancies in the NGT, the top court said even in that condition single-member Benches cannot be allowed to discharge judicial function.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Bar body, said expert members with no knowledge of law were deciding cases.

“If there is nobody at the NGT to hear cases, then can they resort to illegality? If NGT is not functional, send it back to High Courts. Scrap this tribunal,” he said.

Number of members

Mr. Rohatgi said there were only six of 40 members at the NGT and the government should have taken steps to fill up vacancies.

The court, which posted the matter for hearing on March 12, said the NGT Benches should consist of one technical member and one judicial member each.

Vacant posts

The Supreme Court had earlier agreed to hear on Wednesday the plea challenging change in rules enabling even a single-member Bench of the NGT to discharge judicial function.

The functioning of the green panel, which is being headed by Acting Chairperson Justice U.D. Salvi after Justice Swatanter Kumar demitted office on December 19 last year, has been hampered at its head and zonal Benches due to non-appointment to the posts which fell vacant in the recent past.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 10:41:12 AM |

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