SC terms vacancies in NGT as “appalling”, directs govt to notify in 6 months

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday termed as “appalling” situation on the vacancy in the National Green Tribunal and directed the government to notify all the existing vacancies at one go in the next six months. A three-judge bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna noted that as of today, there are about 14 vacancies (seven judicial members and seven technical members).

Expressing concern over vacancies, the apex court said that the Tribunal is presently functioning with the strength of only seven judges (one chairman, three judicial members and three technical members) despite the mandate of the National Green tribunal Act to ensure that the minimum number of members shall not be less than ten.

“This is an appalling situation concerning the premier institution such as National Green Tribunal, which is required to deal with environmental issues. That cannot be countenanced,” the bench said. The apex court said it was conscious of the reply filed by the Union of India in which assurance has been given that notification for filling up nine vacancies is being issued by the end of July, 2020.

“That, in our opinion, is not enough. We deem it appropriate to direct the Union of India to notify all the existing vacancies at one go (of seven judicial members and seven technical members), including the anticipated vacancies likely to take place in the next six months,” the bench said. It directed that the notification be issued not later than 10 days from today and whereafter the process for selection/appointment be expedited.

“Until the proposed selection process culminates with appointment order(s) of the concerned candidates against the existing vacancies, the members presently in office as on this date but are likely to retire shortly, shall continue to hold office in terms of this order and discharge their functions accordingly,” the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on August 13.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by bar body NGT Bar Association (western zone) regarding vacancies in the NGT and seeking expeditious appointments. Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel is the current Chairperson of NGT. India’s top environmental watchdog National Green Tribunal 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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