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Supreme Court Advocates Institutionalization for Effective Environmental Governance

  • Published
    1st Feb, 2024
Context

The Supreme Court of India advocated the need for enhanced scrutiny and institutionalization in environmental governance, emphasizing the imperative role of various regulatory bodies.

Court’s observation:

  • Despite the existence of multiple bodies dedicated to safeguarding ecology, forests, and wildlife, the court recognized the insufficiency in their oversight, leading to the apex court's independent involvement in building environmental jurisprudence.
  • It is due to perceived shortcomings in the judgment, review, and consideration by these bodies.

The Call for Institutionalization:

  • The court underscored the necessity for "institutionalization" as the number of environmental regulators, bodies, and authorities increases.
  • Recognizing their direct impact on ecological balance, the court emphasizes that these entities must adhere to institutional norms for efficiency, integrity, and certainty.

Key Directives for Environmental Bodies:

  • The Supreme Court directed that bodies, regulators, and authorities entrusted with environmental duties must adhere to certain institutional features.
  • These include a clear demarcation of their mandate, public notification of rules and regulations, well-defined procedures for application and permissions, norms for public hearings and appeals, accountability, and regular audits.

Importance of Institutionalization:

  • Institutionalization, as defined by the court, entails the adherence to norms of efficiency, integrity, and independence by these environmental bodies.
  • These entities form the backbone of environmental governance in the country and must operate with accountability as duty-bearers.

Verdict on the Central Empowered Committee (CEC):

  • The judgment upholds the government's notification of September 5, 2023, establishing a permanent Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to replace the ad hoc panel formed by the court two decades ago.
  • The move is justified based on the age and location of members in the old panel, along with the evolution of environmental laws and regulatory bodies.

Multitude of Statutory Environmental Regulators:

Numerous statutory environmental regulators and bodies that have evolved over the years, including the Animal Welfare Board of India, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Central Pollution Control Board, State Pollution Control Boards, National Tiger Conservation Authority, Coastal Zone Management Authority, Central Groundwater Board, and National Biodiversity Authority.

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