TAMIL NADU

No appellate authority on eco issues yet

The Union Territory administration and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests have been flayed by environmental activists for not constituting a separate appellate authority to decide the appeals against consent given by Puducherry Pollution Control Committee and showing scant regard for environment matters in Puducherry.

R. Kothandaraman, honorary president of Puducherry Environment Protection Association, said: “There is no established system for managing consent notices given to industries. There is no systematic approach followed to deal with the environmental issues in the Union Territory,” he said. The activist also questioned the Union government’s decision to constitute appellate authority at New Delhi. Mr. Kothandaraman wondered how any aggrieved person over the decision of Puducherry Pollution Control Committee could approach the appellate authority in New Delhi.

Commenting on the sorry state of affairs on the environmental front, Communist Party of India leader R. Viswanathan said the Union Territory government had been showing scant regard for environmental concerns, especially rising pollution levels.

Court order

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court has directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to constitute a separate appellate authority in Puducherry within three months.

A public interest litigation (PIL) by the Puducherry Environment Protection Association challenged the order dated December 13, 1989, which appointed the Joint Secretary in-charge of Pollution Control in the Ministry of Environment and Forests as the appellate authority to decide the appeals against the orders of Puducherry Pollution Control Committee and the headquarters of the appellate authority in New Delhi.

PIL plea

The PIL also sought to direct the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to constitute an appellate authority headed by a retired Judge of the High Court.

According to the association, the MoEF appointed the Joint Secretary in-charge of Pollution Control in the Ministry of Environment and Forests as the appellate authority and the practice of appointing government officers to perform judicial functions in the matters concerning the environment and posting of civil servants as appellate authority was found fault with by the Supreme Court in a number of cases right from 1986. The Puducherry Pollution Control Committee said the appointment of the officer suffered from legal infirmity and the Union Territory of Puducherry had not constituted the appellate authority under the Air and Water Act in terms of the directions issued by the Supreme Court.

MoEF counter

However, the MoEF in its counter, stated that the appellate authority had been constituted by the State governments concerned in the respective States.

As per the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, the National Green Tribunal was in place and the appeal against the decisions of the appellate authority under the Air Act as well as the direction under the Water Act was within the jurisdiction of the National Green Tribunal.

The MoEF further stated that the Joint Secretary, Ajay Tyagi, was in-charge of the Control of Pollution (CP) Division in the Ministry and accordingly, he had functioned as an appellate authority under the Air Act during that period.

Rejecting the stand of the MoEF, a Division Bench comprising Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and M. Sathyanarayanan said, “The constitution of National Green Tribunal cannot be stated as a reason for not constituting the appellate authority, in terms of the direction issued by the Supreme Court, as the National Green Tribunal will have jurisdiction to decide cases, which are to be filed against the orders of the appellate authority alone.”

Observing that the reason stated by the MoEF in the counter affidavit is not countenanced, the Bench directed the MoEF to constitute appellate authority under the Air and Water Act within a period of three months.



Activist question Union government’s decision to constitute appellate authority at New Delhi

HC has directed MoEF to set up the authority in Puducherry in three months