SC orders setting up of environment regulator

The Supreme Court on Monday directed establishing a national environment regulator for appraising projects, enforcing green norms and imposing penalties on polluters.

A three-judge Green bench presided over by Justice A K Patnaik brushed aside the Centre’s claim of supremacy in granting environmental clearances. The government had claimed that only it was empowered under the Forest (Conservation) Act to act as a regulator.

“What is required is a regulator at the national level having its offices in all states, which can carry out an independent, objective and transparent appraisal and approval of the projects for environmental clearances and which can also monitor the implementation of the conditions laid down in the environmental clearances,” the bench said.

The court granted two months’ time to the government for the purpose, while noting that the present mechanism under the 2006 norms was “deficient” in many aspects.

In its 2011 judgment, the apex court allowed French cement major Lafarge to mine limestone in the forests of Meghalaya’s East Khasi hills and told the government to set up a national environment regulator.

As the matter was raised in September last year, the Centre claimed that since it was the absolute authority under the law, there was no need for any other body.
Finding fault with the government’s stand, the court pointed out that the Environment Protection Act “conferred a power coupled with a duty” to appoint an appropriate authority in the form of a regulator at the central and state levels.

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