National Green Tribunal: While dealing with the issue relating to eligibility for appointment of Chairman/ Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board, the Tribunal held that the Pollution Boards constituted by the State Governments/ Union Territories shall be strictly in accordance to Section 4 of the Water Act and Section 5 of the Air Act.
In the present case, a challenge has been made to the constitution of State Pollution Control Board mainly on the ground that person who do not qualify in terms of Section 4 of the Water (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1974 and Section 5 of the Air (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1981 are being appointed as Chairman/Member Secretary of the Board. The case of the applicant is that there is no infrastructure of professional and technical officer in the Environment department of the State Government and State Board. Manpower in the State Board is almost same as in 2000 and is highly insufficient and in-competent to cope up with thousands of industries and development centres which have now been established. Further the applicant stated that rehabilitation and rebuilding of infrastructure in the State is being planned and executed by IAS/IFS officers having administrative/Forest background only. The knowledge and practical experience of IFS officers in implementation of Forest Conservation/Wildlife Protect/Bio-diversity Act, which is only 10% of total Environment, cannot fulfil the requirement of professional knowledge and expertise of environment as required under Water and Air Protection Act and the Rules made thereunder. According to the applicant, the State Government violated the provisions of Water Act, 1974 and Air Act, 1981 and the Principal Secretary, Forest and Environment, Government of Uttarakhand had illegally nominated himself as Chairman and 10 others, by their designation, as Members of the State Pollution Control Board. The appointment/nominations of Chairman and Member Secretary should have been of the persons who were having special knowledge and practical experience in environment and that of other members as per the relevant provision. It should not have been on the basis of their designation, by virtue of service in the State Government
The Tribunal after perusal of the argument advanced issued certain guidelines to the State Governments/Union Territories in order to maintain the smooth functioning of State Pollution Control Boards,
- The State Governments/ Union Territories shall constitute the Pollution Control Boards strictly in accordance to Section 4 of the Water Act and Section 5 of the Air Act, and the eligibility criteria as aforesaid, for appointment of Chairman/Member Secretary of the Board.
- The State Government is to ensure that the person manning the post of Chairman/Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board are competent and eligible with requisite knowledge or practical experience in the field of environment protection and pollution control, with experience of management.
- The appointment as a, Chairman or Member Secretary, should be of persons who are having special knowledge or practical experience or qualification in environment protection studies and not by virtue of their designation in service of the State Government like Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary, Environment Secretary or even Politician like former Speaker, Minister, M.L.A, all literary persons and non-technical persons.
- The State Government are to notify the rules under Water and Air Act expeditiously specifying the qualifications and experiences required for the post of Chairman/ Member Secretary. The post of Chairman/ Member Secretary should be advertised and thrown open for all candidates irrespective of the fact whether they are in the Government, Academia or in private sector, so as to attract the best talent to man the said post.
- The nominated Chairman/Member Secretary should have a fixed term of office which should not be extended for more than one term. Such persons should not hold office in the Board in accordance to their tenure in State Government.
- Once a person having requisite eligibility is appointed as Chairman/Member Secretary in the State Pollution Control Board, he is to continue for full tenure and the same is not to be curtailed by removal or by repatriated before its completion, unless there are charges of misconduct or cogent reasons which are to be placed on record. Completion of tenure as Chairman/ Member Secretary of the Board, not only gives security of service to the persons who are appointed but it is essential for efficiency of work and smooth functioning of the Board. A tenure unaffected by political and bureaucratic interference would be extremely important for the officials to function fearlessly and in accordance to the mandate of the legislation as given under relevant Environmental Protection Laws like Water Act, Air Act etc.
- The State Government is to develop the infrastructure in the State Board by professional and technical officers who are efficient and competent to cope-up with increase of industries and development centres. They should ensure adequate manpower for the purpose of execution of provision of the relevant law.
- The State Government should have latest equipped laboratories for analysis of samples of trade effluents etc.
- The State Government is to ensure strict compliance of Section 8 of Water Act and Section 10 of the Air Act so that a meeting of the State Pollution Control Boards are held regularly and in accordance with law.
- The State Governments and all concerned Authorities shall act in accordance with the directions contained in this judgement particularly paragraph 148 of the Judgment.
- The State Government and all competent Authorities shall proceed to make appointment/ nomination of the Members of the Board as per categorisation and subject to the limitations of number provided under Section 4 and 5 of the Act of 1974 and 1981 respectively as expeditiously as possible, in any case not later than three months from the date of pronouncement of this Judgment.
[Rajendra Singh Bhandari v. State of Uttarakhand, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 456, decided on 24th August, 2016]