Better quality of judges, exposure to economic issues: What NITI Aayog-funded study of SC, NGT orders prescribes

The analysis of economic impacts due to five select environment-related court orders estimates 75,000 persons were adversely impacted from mid-2018 to mid-2021 due to restrictive orders related to environment including a mining ban in Goa

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 20 June 2022
The net loss of employment (both direct and indirect) comes to almost 30,000 jobs in the Sterlite Copper Plant closure case, according to the analysis. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The net loss of employment (both direct and indirect) comes to almost 30,000 jobs in the Sterlite Copper Plant closure case, according to the analysis. Photo: Wikimedia Commons The net loss of employment (both direct and indirect) comes to almost 30,000 jobs in the Sterlite Copper Plant closure case, according to the analysis. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The judiciary needs to be equipped well to balance economic and ecological interests of the country, a recent study has recommended. The study was commisioned and fully funded by the NITI Aayog.

The Government of India lost revenue worth Rs 8,000 crore from mid-2018 to mid-2021, an analysis by non-profit CUTS (Consumer Unity and Trust Society) International, of five environment-related major orders of the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has estimated.

If this revenue had been spent as capital expenditure, the economic returns would have been to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore, the CUTS analysis showed.

NITI Aayog commissioned CUTS to study the economic impacts of various judicial orders somewhere in 2018. The study, fully funded by the Union government think-tank, was to be completed by last year, but the pandemic delayed it.

The report titled Economic Impact of Select Decisions of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal of India has been submitted as of June 20, 2022, to the NITI Aayog.

The study included:

The five verdicts, the study estimated, adversely impacted 75,000 persons and 16,000 persons lost jobs. “The industry lost close to Rs 15,000 crores in revenues and workers lost around Rs 500 crore of income,” the report said.

Due to the ban on mining in Goa (because of the mining case order of the apex court), “the state public debt increased at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.06 per cent from 2007 through 2021, while the market loans taken by the state increased at a CAGR of 19.93 per cent, consequently due to mining suspension,” the study said.

“As a consequence of the mining ban in Goa, the central and state revenues cumulatively suffered an estimated deficit of Rs 668.39 crore in taxes paid by the mining companies, whereas the state revenues exclusively suffered an estimated deficit of Rs 1,821.32 crore,” the study said. Mining companies are estimated to have lost Rs 6,976.71 crore during 2018-19 and 2020-2021.

The study had a verdict on the Goa mining case for the apex court:

While quashing 88 mining leases, the SC could have directed GoG (government of Goa) to restart mining operations within a stipulated time under the court’s supervision and facilitated by a committee of subject experts including economists, environmentalists, etc.

“Such an approach could have been informed by an ex-ante impact analysis of the mining suspension, initiated and supervised by the SC itself. The analysis could have also explored the best possible environmental protection measures to keep the damage to the minimum,” it added.

The study, using ‘media reports’, estimated that the “net loss of employment (both direct and indirect) comes to almost 30,000 jobs” in the Sterlite copper plant closure case.

“These grave economic impacts on the varied stakeholders offers a pressing need to find better alternate remedies to balance matters concerning the development-environment conflict in the instant matter,” the CUTS report said in a recommendation note.

“It is thus important to inform the decision-making process at all levels, including the judiciary, keeping in mind the larger objective of human-centricity of economic development and environmental sustainability, with equal considerations to the objective of equity, environment, and economy,” it added.

Source: CUTS analysis

The study has made sweeping recommendations on the need to equip the judiciary and judges on how to strike a balance between the economy and the environmental factors.

For instance, this is what it had to say on the National Capital Region construction ban case:

The ineffectiveness of procedures adopted by the judiciary and the executive in curbing pollution highlights the existence of loopholes in set procedures and system owing to various reasons such as capacity and expertise constraints, paucity of resources, etc.

The study highlighted the need for subject specialists / experts guiding the judges on cases that involved economic impacts. It recommended that selection procedures of judges should also be changed.

“For better quality of judges, the law on National Judicial Commission could be revived. However, it is equally important for judicial officers to be exposed to (basic) economic issues, to enable them to recognise the need for a holistic and balanced decision and approach,” it said.

It also prescribed accountability for the judiciary to “ensure high standard of jurisprudence analysis and decision-making.” 

“In cases where strict adherence to legal provisions may lead to substantive economic losses, the decision-making of the SC should be guided by the larger public good.

“Moreover, the apex court must demand accountability by levying fines and penalties on officers and politicians involved in outright corruption and maladministration cases,” it said.

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