New Delhi: The Supreme Court today allowed the pleas of various states for the release of 10 per cent amount from adhoc "Compensatory Afforestation Funds Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)" for completing the task of compulsory afforestation.
"The Ad-hoc CAMPA is permitted to release annual amount equal to 10% of the principal amount lying to the credit of each state/union territory, out of the interest receivable by it with effect from financial year 2014-2015 onwards," a special forest bench headed by justice A K Patnaik said.
However, the apex court made it clear that the release of the funds shall be subject to the guidelines already laid down by its Central Empowered Committee and "no money out of the amounts available with Ad-hoc CAMPA will be transferred or utilized without the leave of this Court."
The bench, also comprising justices S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla, further directed that the National CAMPA Advisory Council will file a status report within a period of three months regarding the monitoring and evaluation of the works being undertaken by utilizing the funds released by CAMPA.
The apex court passed the directions after considering the January 6, 2014 report of the CEC which recommended that the prayer made in the applications by the state governments ought to be accepted.
It also said guidelines laid by the CEC on utilization of funds will be strictly followed by the state CAMPA and the same shall be treated as directions of this Court.
The CEC had recommended that the apex court may in partial modification of its earlier order of July 10, 2009 consider permitting the Ad-hoc CAMPA to release 10 per cent of the funds after receipt of the "Annual Plan of Operation" containing details of the afforestation and other works for conservation, protection and development of forests and wildlife and approved by the Steering Committee of the respective state CAMPA.
Further, the CEC had said the National CAMPA Advisory Council (NCAC) will finalize and issue guidelines before May 1 2014 regarding the activities for which the use of CAMPA funds will not be permissible (such as foreign study tours) and the activities for which a ceiling on the use of CAMPA funds will apply (such as purchase of vehicles and construction of residential/office buildings).
Among the other guidelines, the CEC had said the annual release of funds to the National CAMPA Advisory Counsel (NCAC) will continue to be upto Rs. 50 crore provided the amounts earlier released are found to have been substantially utilized.
The apex court noted that the aforesaid recommendations have been given by the CEC after setting out the background in which CAMPA was set up.
The forest bench was informed that about Rs 6,000 crores are being received by CAMPA annually.
"This amount represents the total amount collected for compensatory afforestation fund (principal amount Rs.3000 crores annually) and approximately Rs.3000 crores by way of interest on fixed deposits annually.
"This is in addition to the accumulative principal amount which is already invested in fixed deposits," the bench noted.