Centre to miss SC deadline on national forest regulator

The Supreme Court today expressed displeasure over the Centre missing the March 31 deadline to implement its direction to appoint a national regulator to oversee the implementation of forest policy.

PTI| Updated: Mar 27, 2014, 19:11 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today expressed displeasure over the Centre missing the March 31 deadline to implement its direction to appoint a national regulator to oversee the implementation of forest policy.

A forest bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik was visibly upset when Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran said that the Centre needed more time to appoint the national regulator in view of the upcoming general elections.

The Solicitor General`s response came after the bench specifically asked about it and, in a lighter vein, said the Congress party`s manifesto released yesterday also mentioned about the national regulator for implementation of forest policy.
"What happened to the regulator. There was a newspaper report that it is there in the Congress manifesto also," the bench, also comprising justices S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla, observed.

However, after Prasaran spoke about the constraint faced by the Centre, the bench said, "But we had fixed the deadline of March 31."

The Solicitor General said the deadline could not be adhered to as certain modalities were yet to be completed and because of the general election it will take some more time.

"We are bound to implement the order," he said and elaborated that after consultations, inter-ministerial note was prepared and placed before the court.

He said a formal application for extension of time till June 30 for implementing the apex court order would be filed.
The apex court had on January 6 rejected the Centre`s stand that there was no need for a national regulator to oversee the implementation of forest policy and had set a deadline of March 31 for the appointment.

"We direct the Union of India to appoint Regulator with its offices in as many states as possible," the bench had said while rejecting the plea of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The bench had made it clear that the clearances under the Forest Act would be granted by MoEF but the regulator will see the implementation of the Forest Policy of 1998.

It had said that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 would now be dealt with directly by the national regulator for every project.

While directing the appointment of the national regulator, the bench had said it had become necessary as the present system for EIA under the central government was deficient.

According to a senior advocate associated with the matter, this order had a far-reaching impact and it would be difficult to ease the tough EIA scrutiny of projects and to allow their early clearance.

The apex court`s order had come on a plea of MoEF seeking modification of the 2011 decision in which it had directed the central government to appoint a national regulator for "appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters".

Last year, the Centre had informed the court that there was no need for setting up of a green regulator to oversee matters related to environmental clearances and had pleaded for modification of its order for setting up such a body.

The Centre, however, had said that an authority to monitor and facilitate implementation of the National Forest Policy, 1998 will be set up.