SC subjects Forest Advisory Committee's role to judicial scrutiny

Published: Thursday 31 May 2007

the Supreme Court has gained the upper hand in its dispute with the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) over constituting the Forest Advisory Committee (fac). fac plays a crucial role because it governs large-scale transfer of forestland for non-forest purposes. But the court has diminished fac's role by making its decisions subject to judicial scrutiny.

In an order passed on April 27, 2007, the court said "It may be stated that fresh cases may be cleared project-wise by the FAC and thereafter such clearances shall be placed before this Court for approval. We make it clear that pending the decision of the larger question, all clearances by the FAC of fresh cases shall be subject to approval by this Court. Before giving approval, we would like to have responses from Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in respect of each clearance."

In 2006, the Supreme Court-appointed cec had suggested nine names for three non-official members of fac-- all of which moef rejected. The court had come down heavily on moef see 'Matter of fac', Down To Earth, January 15, 2007). Then, in successive hearings, moef was given another option of the three non-official members, the government include one out of the nine that the court suggests, and the remaining two could be appointees of the government. On the April 27 hearing, the government took a tough stand saying there was no ground for the removal of even one of its appointees.

The court's latest verdict appears to be a blow to the government. "Initially, where the court had compromised by having only one of its recommended members, the government did not agree. Now moef will have to face cec and the court itself," says a source.

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