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The Supreme Court today appointed former Karnataka High Court judge, Justice Jawad Rahim as acting Chairperson of National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The order was passed today by a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud in a petition filed by NGT Bar Association.
The Court made this interim appointment after the Central government through Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court that it would abide by the interim arrangement that is made by this Court, so as to facilitate the discharge of duties of the Chairperson until a regular appointment is made.
“The learned Attorney General has indicated that the Central Government would abide by the interim arrangement that is made by this Court, so as to facilitate the discharge of duties of the Chairperson until a regular appointment is made. The making of an interim arrangement is also necessitated in order to enable the acting Chairperson to participate in the selection process for filling up vacancies of members of the NGT.”
The Court chose Jawad Rahim due to his Seniority over the next Senior most judicial member, Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore.
“The learned Attorney General for India has placed on the record a comparative chart setting out relevant details in regard to two of the senior most judicial members of the Tribunal : Justice Jawad Rahim and Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore. From the chart, the learned Attorney General has drawn the attention of the Court to the fact that Justice Jawad Rahim and Justice R S Rathore were appointed to the NGT on 12 January 2016. Justice Jawad Rahim joined the NGT later than Justice Rathore, after he was relieved from his assignment. The Attorney General has fairly drawn the attention of the Court to the fact that Justice Jawad Rahim ranks senior in appointment to Justice R S Rathore as a Judge of the High Court.”
It, therefore, held that Rahim J. would discharge the duties of Chairperson till a regular appointment is made.
“Justice Jawad Rahim shall discharge the duties of Chairperson for all purposes, including participating in the selection process for filing up vacancies of members, until a regular appointment of a new Chairperson is made.”
The NGT has been suffering on account of a lack of personnel in the recent past. Vacancies at the tribunal could not be filled up due to the absence of a Chairperson, who is required to constitute the committee tasked with making appointments. This committee also comprises the CJI and two nominees of the Central government.
Justice Rahim was appointed as a judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2006, and served till his retirement in 2014. He then served as Member of the Law Commission of Karnataka for around two years, before being appointed as Judicial Member of the NGT in February 2016.
On a previous date of hearing, the Supreme Court made it clear that single judge Benches shall not be constituted to hear matters in the NGT.
The Bench was hearing filed a petition filed by the NGT Bar Association challenging the validity of the National Green Tribunal (Practices and Procedures) Amendment Rules, 2017, notified by the Centre last year.
The 2017 Amendment Rules seek to enable the constitution of single member benches at various zonal branches of the Tribunal across the country. This, the NGT Bar Association contends in its petition, is contrary to the scheme and intent of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
The petition, filed through NGT Bar Association President Saurabh Kulkarni and drafted by advocate Kush Chaturvedi, also reveals the lack of personnel at the Tribunal. As per Section 4(1)(b) of the Act, the Tribunal must consist of at least ten judicial members and ten expert members. However, there are currently only three judicial members and two expert members functioning at the tribunal.
Image taken from here.