The bench says that the chairpersons are not appropriately qualified to head an important body like SPCB
Cracking the whip on 10 State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) for ad-hoc appointments, the National Green Tribunal has ordered the termination of Chairpersons of these regulatory authorities. The concerned states are Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Rajasthan, Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra and Manipur. The order was given last week by the principal bench of the NGT, chaired by Justice Swatanter Kumar.
The recent order of June 8, 2017, comes as a follow-up to an NGT judgment given in August 2016. In that judgment, the NGT had issued directions on appointments of Chairmen and Member Secretaries of the SPCBs, emphasising on crucial roles they have in pollution control and abatement. It then specified required qualifications as well as tenure of the authorities. States were required to act on the orders within three months and frame Rules for appointment [See Box: Highlights of the NGT judgment of 2016 on criteria for SPCB chairperson appointment].
Having failed to act on the order, the states have now been hauled up for the continued employment of under-qualified Chairpersons.
Faulty appointments of SPCB chairpersons
The Tribunal found the appointment of the chairpersons problematic, particularly in two respects.
Firstly, they were not suitably qualified. The bench noted that some of the chairpersons are “bureaucrats and politicians” and lack the required qualification and expertise to head an important body like the SPCB. Particular reference was made to the states of Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. This is despite the fact that the Water Act (1974) and the Air Act (1981)—the two cornerstone legislations guiding the appointments of the SPCB personnel— clearly emphasise the need for having chairpersons who have “special knowledge or practical experience in respect of matters relating to environmental protection”. In fact, the Tribunal called the appointments “illegal” as they do not fulfil the requirements of the laws.
Secondly, chairpersons have often been appointed on temporary basis. Such “stop-gap” arrangement in all likelihood can affect the necessary engagement the position entails for effective functioning of SPCB and fulfilling its responsibilities. The bench emphasised that “only duly qualified persons, with fixed tenure, are required to be appointed”.
Meanwhile, Delhi, Punjab and UP get more time
Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi, the three other states under radar, have been spared for the time being. Observing that these three states had taken account of the NGT directions issued last August and were in the process of framing the appropriate Rules for appointments in the SPCBs/ Pollution Control Committee (PCC), the tribunal gave them additional time. Three months have now been granted to these three states to complete framing of rules and appointing the appropriate chairperson.
|Highlights of the NGT judgment of August 2016 on criteria for SPCB chairperson appointment
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