The Supreme Court has asked for speeding up the process of filling up vacancies in the National Green Tribunal to address the "piquant situation" created due to reduced working strength of the green panel.
A bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna requested the Selection Committee to expedite the processes so that the appointment letters are issued in time.
"We hope and trust that the selection process for judicial members is also speeded up because the mandate of law is that the strength of judicial members and expert members should ordinarily be equivalent.
"In other words, merely expediting the selection process for expert members alone may result in mis-match in the ratio between the two sources (judicial member and expert member)," the bench said.
The apex court was informed that as on July 23, 2020, there were seven vacant posts of judicial members and six vacant posts of expert members in the National Green Tribunal.
"In addition, it is reported that one expert member had tendered resignation on July 17, 2020 and one expert member superannuated on July 30 but is continuing in office in terms of the order," the apex court noted.
The top court was told that the government had already published advertisement for filling up nine vacancies for judicial members vide notification dated July 31, 2020 and the process of filling up of six vacant posts of expert members is at an advance stage.
"In that case, we request the Selection Committee to expedite the processes...to meet the piquant situation created due to reduced working strength of the NGT, only to seven members. This is opposed to the mandate of law to ensure that the minimum strength of the Tribunal at any given point of time shall not be less than 10 members," the court said.
The matter is listed for next hearing in the third week of September.
The apex court had earlier termed as "appalling" the vacancy situation in the National Green Tribunal and directed the government to notify all the existing vacancies at one go in the next six months.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by the NGT Bar Association (western zone) regarding vacancies in the NGT and seeking expeditious appointments.
Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel is the current Chairperson of NGT.
India's top environmental watchdog NGT was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.