Report No. 186
The National Environmental Appellate Authority Act, 1997
This Act was, as stated in the preamble, intended to provide for the establishment of a National Environmental Appellate Authority to hear appeals with respect to restriction of areas in which any industries, operation or process (or class of industries, operation or processes) shall be carried out or shall not be carried out subject to safeguards under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.
Under section 4 of the Act, the Appellate Authority was to consist of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and such other Members not exceeding three, as the Central Government may deem fit. Under section 5, the qualification for appointment as Chairperson is that a person who has been
(a) a Judge of the Supreme Court
(b) the Chief Justice of High Court
A person cannot be appointed as Vice-Chairman unless he has (a) held for two years the post of a Secretary to Govt. of India or any other post under the Central/State Govt. carrying a scale of pay which is not less than that of a Secretary to Govt. of India and (b) had expertise or experience in administrative, legal, management or technical aspects of problems relating to environmental management law or planning and development.
It will be noticed that there is some difference between the above provisions and those under the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995. But here too, the Secretary to Govt. need not necessarily have experience in environmental matters to be appointed as Vice-Chairman.
The term of office is three years.
It is understood that the Appellate Tribunal did not have much work in view of the narrow scope of its jurisdiction as per notification issued. It dealt with very few cases. After the term of the first Chairman was over, no appointment has been made.
Thus these two National Environmental Tribunals are today unfortunately non-functional. One had only jurisdiction to award compensation and never actually came into existence. The other came into existence but after the term of the first Chairman ended, none has been appointed.
It is in the background of this experience with the laws made by Parliament with regard to Environmental Tribunals that we propose to make appropriate proposals in chapter IX for constitution of environmental courts which can simultaneously exercise appellate powers as a Civil Court, and original jurisdiction as exercised by Civil Courts. These proposals will be contained in Chapter IX.