‘Panel’s constitution not in consonance with Wildlife Act, 1972’
The fate of about 140 projects cleared by the newly-constituted standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBW) is uncertain with the Supreme Court finding on Monday that the panel’s constitution “is not in consonance” with the Wildlife Act, 1972.
The court’s Green Bench of Justices J.S. Khehar, J. Chelameswar and A.K. Sikri issued notice to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, under which the NBW comes.
The NBW, of which the chairperson is the Prime Minister, is the top body under the 1972 Act and its standing committee, headed by the Environment Minister, reviews projects which fall in and around national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves.
On August 12, a fresh committee under Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had cleared most of the 140 projects pending review.
On Monday, the Green Bench directed that none of the orders passed by the new committee would be given effect until the next date of hearing in the Supreme Court after two weeks.
“We are of the view that the same [the notification altering the constitution of the NBW in the manner stated above] was not issued in consonance with Section 5A of the Wildlife Act,” the Bench observed in the order.
The suspension of the committee’s clearance of the projects is based on a petition filed by Pune resident Chandra Bhal Singh challenging a July 22, 2014 notification issued by the Environment Ministry changing the constitution of the new standing committee.
Instead of five NGOs on the committee, the notification reduced their numbers to 1. Besides, of 10 members that the Central government was supposed to nominate, only two were nominated.
The petition said the notification was “illegal,” in “gross violation of the law and Constitution” and did not give proper representation to “the society at large, who are stakeholders in the decision-making process on wildlife matters.”
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