New Delhi: The environment ministry on 16 December asked the Supreme Court to give it six more months to study suggestions by an expert panel before forming the National Environment Management Authority.

In what could further delay the creation of the green regulator, some states have objected to the formation of the authority, which they say goes against the federal structure of India.

The apex court in January had directed the central government to appoint an environment regulator by 31 March, which would appraise projects, enforce environmental conditions for approvals, impose penalties on polluters and implement the National Forest Policy.

The directive was not carried out because wider consultations were needed, which included the state governments.

In its latest affidavit filed on 16 December, the environment ministry informed the apex court of the recommendations of a panel headed by former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramanian on the creation of the authority at the national level, and its counterparts in the states and Union territories. Mint has reviewed a copy of the affidavit.

The ministry also said the proposed environment laws management legislation that would lead to the formation of the federal and provincial regulators requires a review of major laws related to environment. The panel reported the new law should aim at managing all aspects of environment in a transparent manner, and would “obviate the situation that compelled the judiciary to manage forests and environment with help of ad hoc committees".

The environment ministry requested the Supreme Court to grant, “at least six months time to examine the recommendations of high level committee to finalize the framework of the proposed regulator/authority".

Interestingly, the court on 21 November directed the ministry to appoint a regulator within three weeks.

The National Democratic Alliance government in September set up a ministers’ panel to chart the way for setting up a regulator. The environment ministry then called a meeting of environment ministers and officials of state governments and Union territories in October, where some states expressed unease at the proposal. “There were two very clear views from participating states/UTs—one who supported the proposal but with a large number of checks and balances and others who were not in support of the proposal", the ministry’s affidavit said.

The minutes of the meeting, seen by Mint, show that Bihar, while opposing the setting up of such a regulator, suggested the “role of government should not be guided by the judiciary".

“The biggest regulator is the Constitution of India. The powers conferred under the constitution to parliament, executive and the judiciary should be exercised by them independently without intervention by others. The state government opposes the proposal as we already have regulatory system in place. However, there is a need for further decentralization of powers to state governments and streamlining the procedures," the Bihar government said.

The minutes show while Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi were against the plan, several others had no clear stand. Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh favoured a regulator with proper checks and balances. After the meeting, the ministry had asked for written comments from all states, but since October, only seven states and Union territories, or less than one-fourth of the total, have given comments.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, and environment and forests, headed by Rajya Sabha member Ashwani Kumar of the Congress party on Friday announced taking up the Subramanian committee’s report for public consultation.

Close