CJI seeks teeth for environmental laws

Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia on Tuesday suggested amending various environmental laws to give them more teeth and also providing requisite machinery to implement them properly.

Last Updated: Nov 09, 2010, 22:16 PM IST

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia on Tuesday suggested amending various environmental laws to give them more teeth and also providing requisite machinery to implement them properly.

"You (lawyers) should tell the government. Please
amend the laws and provide teeth for their enforceability,"
said Kapadia, pointing out that the legislature has enacted
several laws for protection of environment but has provided
"no machinery" to enforce them.

"You (lawyers) should tell the government. Please
amend the laws and provide teeth for their enforceability,"
said Kapadia, pointing out that the legislature has enacted
several laws for protection of environment but has provided
"no machinery" to enforce them.

The CJI was addressing a gathering of various legal
luminaries including senior Supreme Court and Delhi High Court
judges and lawyers here on the occasion of National Legal
Service Day which marks the enactment of the National Legal
Service Act in 1987.

Elaborating on the difference between the Forest Act
of 1920 and its present form after it was amended in 1980,
Kapadia pointed out that the 1920 law treated jungles as a
national resource to be exploited for revenue generation.

"But the 1980 (version of the) law made forests a national asset to be preserved for the future generation," said the CJI, also NALSA`s patron-in-chief.

Sharing his experience as a judge, sitting on the Supreme Court forest bench for the last six years every Friday, the CJI said that rather than dealing with environmental and forest laws, the bench "has become a bench to deal with corruption.

"A handful of corporate and rich people are destroying forests out of their greed through illegal mining," he said.

While lashing out at corporates for destroying forests and harming environment, Kapadia said lawyers should check the menace by approaching courts through public interest litigations.

He, however, felt that the lawyers` inability to conduct thorough legal research and differentiate between various subtle legal concepts, defeat the purpose of PILs.

"There is need to enlighten the lawyers. Let the lawyers know what they require to impart to the people," said the chief justice.

"There are many good PILs filed by the lawyers, but due to lack of research by them, many good causes get defeated," he added.

Differentiating between the concept of "equal access to legal rights" and that of "minimum need-based approach", the CJI said that the government may respond with "a firm no" to a PIL seeking education for all the children on the ground of insufficiency of funds.

"But it will not be open to the government to say no if the PIL drafted by the lawyer seeks minimum relief to most needy section of the society," CJI said.

Earlier, Justice R V Raveendran, the Supreme Court`s Legal Service Committee chairman, expressed doubts about the credentials of most of the people and organisations approaching the higher courts through PILs, which he termed as "private interest or publicity interest litigations".

He suggested various State Legal Service Authorities (SLSA) to be more proactive, to take up research work to ascertain what are good causes for weaker sections of the society and move courts with PILs for their welfare.

"That way the bonafides of the petitioners will never
be in doubt," he said.

PTI