NGT forms committee to decide if 2 pvt Agra colleges fall within Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary

 The National Green Tribunal has constituted a committee to decide whether two private engineering colleges have been constructed inside the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Agra.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel set up the committee on October 30 comprising the Principal Secretaries of departments of revenue and forest, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Head of the Forest Force) and the Chief Wild Life Warden of Uttar Pradesh.

The nodal officer will be the Chief Wild Life Warden of the state who will co-ordinate the proceedings and take initiative for carrying out these directions, the tribunal said, adding that the Chief Secretary will facilitate this exercise as per the timelines fixed by it. 

“The meeting for the purpose may be held within one month from today and decision on the question whether the Anand Engineering College, Agra and Hindustan Institute of Management and Technology are within the area of Wild Life Sanctuary notified on March 27, 1991 may be taken within two months thereafter. The concerned statutory authorities will thereafter enforce the said order. The committee is free to take assistance of any concerned officer of the State,” the bench said.

The NGT said that it would be open to the parties to put forward their view point before the committee through the Chief Wild Life Warden in writing with relevant records. 

“A report of the committee may be forwarded to this Tribunal by the Chief Wild Life Warden, Uttar Pradesh by e-mail at ngt.filing@gmail.com on or before February 28, 2019 and put up for consideration on March 12, 2019,” said the bench, also comprising Justice S P Wangdi, in its October 30 order. 

The order came after counsel for the parties suggested that a committee be constituted to resolve the conflicting versions and to oversee demarcation. 

“On the one hand, the stand of Agra District Magistrate is that the area is covered by the Notification, on the other hand without demarcation of the same, the SEIAA has granted Environmental Clearance and the Pollution Control Board has granted Consent under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 thereby permitting the institutions to continue,” the NGT noted.

The tribunal was hearing a plea of an environmentalist challenging the construction of two private engineering colleges inside the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Agra.

It alleged that the construction has come up without obtaining required environment clearance as required under EIA Notification, 2006, No Objection Certificate from Pollution Control Board, Forest Clearance and any permission from National Board for Wildlife and in violation of Wetland (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2010.

The plea had sought the demolition of illegal structure, quashing of environmental clearances and action against state officials besides restoration of the area.

It had also alleged that Hindustan Institute of Management and Technology was discharging noxious effluents directly into Keetham lake in the sanctuary without treatment.

The plea claimed that the college “managed” to procure NOC from the district administration of Agra that the land is not being use for agriculture or horticulture “in violation of the provisions of the Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 which prohibits such change of land use”.

CJI refuses to be part of panel to select NJAC members : SC

dattuIn a new twist, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu has refused to participate in a three-member panel for selecting two eminent persons in the six-member National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) on whose validity a constitution bench began hearings today.

The five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, which is hearing the issue of constitutional validity of the new law on appointment of judges to higher judiciary, was told by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that Dattu has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he would not participate in the meeting of the panel till the matter is decided by the apex court.

The three-member panel comprises Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition, who are authorised to select and appoint two eminent persons in the six-member NJAC for appointment of judges to higher judiciary.

When it was brought to the notice of the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, it heard the views of various senior advocates on how to proceed with the matter taking into account that in the immediate future there would be the eventuality of appointment of existing additional judges of the high courts whose tenures are coming to an end.After taking note of their views, the judges retired to their chambers and assembled after 15 minutes.

Justice Khehar said that the bench has decided to continue with the hearing on the merits of the case and if needed it will pass an interim order.

“A consensus has emerged that we will continue with the merits of the case and when it is necessary we will pass an interim order,” the bench said.

The AG submitted that it is mandatory for the CJI to be the part of the panel in selection and appointment of eminent persons in the six-member commission.He said a direction should be passed for the CJI to participate in the meeting.

However, his view was not shared by senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who is appearing for Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), said that if the CJI is not participating, the bench can direct others to meet and participate.

The apex court also sought the view of senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who said, that the bench has to see if prima facie, a case for staying the operation of NJAC Act is made out or not.
However, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Haryana government and supporting the new law, submitted that the bench can continue with the hearing as the question of additional judges of high courts will arise only on May 20 and in the meantime if the hearing goes on the judges will get the grasp of what is going to be the prima facie view.
Salve further said that the bench has to, on one hand, consider the sensitivity of the head of the judicial family that is the CJI, and the will of the Parliament which led to the constitution of the NJAC, on the other.
He also said let the matter be heard for seven-eight days and then a view can be taken on the entire issue.
“Today we are at the very initial stage,” Salve said, adding that staying the amendment at this stage will not be the right thing to do.
On April 23, the apex court had said that NJAC will only deal with appointment of existing additional judges of High Courts, whose tenures are ending during pendency of the controversy, after it was assured by the AG that commission will not appoint judges to the higher judiciary and will move the court in such an eventuality.
Earlier, the bench had asked Rohatgi to take instruction from competent authority about the additional judges in high courts whose tenure is coming to an end in the immediate future when the matter will be pending before the court.
The AG had said that barring four-five cases, all recommendations of erstwhile collegium have been accepted.
On the issue of re-appointment or extension of additional HC judges, Rohatgi had said that tenures of two or three judges of Assam High Court, seven to eight in the Bombay High Court are ending in June and hence, the issue be “kept open” till May 11 as the NJAC is likely to be constituted by May 4.
The process to appoint two eminent persons in the six- member NJAC “will commence shortly” and the panel is “likely to commence working on May 4”, he had said.
The bench had said that the NJAC Act has to implemented as it has neither been stayed nor set aside.
Rohatgi had refuted the submission of Nariman that two eminent citizens, who would become part of the NJAC, will be embarrassed if the Act is set aside and said that they would be knowing that a litigation is pending.

Crucial hearing on NJAC by constitution bench of SC

njacTwo days after the government notified the controversial NJAC law to remove the collegium system of appointment of judges, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will commence hearing from tomorrow to examine the validity of new measure and is likely to consider passing an interim order to staying the operation of the Act.

A three-judge bench of the apex court on April 7 had referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench, a batch of petitions challenging the validity of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act to replace the two-decade- old collegium system of appointing judges to higher judiciary.

The court had refused to stay the implementation of law with the observation that all the issues arising out of the petitions would be decided by the Constitution Bench.

Two days thereafter, the Chief Justice of India H L Dattu Constituted the Constitution Bench comprising Justices A R Dave, J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel to hear the matter.

Justices Joseph and Goel are the two new judges in the bench while the other three had heard the matter before thinking it fit that the issues in the pleas required to be adjudicated by a larger bench.

However on April 13, the government notified the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act along with a Constitutional Amendment Act (99th Amendment Act) to give constitutional status to the new body to appoint judges.

NJAC was signed into an Act by President Pranab Mukherjee on December 31, 2014.

Under the collegium system which came into existence in 1993 after a Supreme Court judgement, five top judges of the apex court recommend transfer and elevation of judges to Supreme Court and 24 High Courts.

According to the new Article 124(A) inserted in the Constitution, two eminent persons will be nominated to the Commission as members by the committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha or where there is no such LoP, then the leader of single largest Opposition party.

One of the eminent persons will be nominated from among the persons belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities or women.

Equipped cops needed for efficient & independent probes: SC

Supreme Court today said well- equipped and trained police officers have to be there to conduct “efficient and independent” probe into serious offences without “political interference” and asked the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) to mull over it.

“We want efficient investigation by trained police officers in serious offences like murder and rape and they should be able to conduct investigation independently without any kind of pressure,” a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.

The court also allowed senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in hearing of the PIL on police reforms in country, to file compilation of data along with detailed note on the issue within six weeks. The Centre will have to respond within three weeks thereafter.

During the hearing, the bench today also posed queries on police reforms to senior Punjab cadre IPS officer Rajan Gupta, who heads the BPR&D that was set up in 1970 to suggest measures to the government to modernise police forces.

The BPR&D Chief, in response to a query, said separate caderisation of police force to handle law and order and investigation of serious offences was not possible as it would create problems relating to promotions.

Moreover, sometimes the investigation of an offence cannot be entirely separated from the law and order issue, he said, adding that budget constraints have led to lack of adequate manpower in police stations.

“Tell us whether the quality of investigation, which should be scientific, impartial and free from political interference, can be done by a Sub Inspector (SI), who has just become a SI from ‘havaldar’. How far a SI is equipped to deal with the scientific probe.

“The Model Police Act (2006) is actually the same wine in new bottle. Will it make any difference,” the bench, also comprisingcops, said.

Moreover, a policeman, over a period of time, develops skill and the investigation of offense is also related to the law and order and the real problem is the lack of man power in police stations, Gupta said.

“The problem of manpower is a universal problem. In district courts, there is one PP (public prosecutor) for four courts and judges wait for the PP for recording of statements and cross-examination of witnesses,” the bench said.