The Top court today asked the Centre whether it was planning a dedicated Indian Environment Service in the national bureaucratic set-up, as recommended by a committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian in 2014.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh sent notice to the Union government on a PIL by Samar Vijay Singh, who through senior advocate K Sultan Singh argued that the Subramanian Committee recommendations for the establishment of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and State EMA to monitor implementation of environmental protection measures in every project at ground level would go a long way in arresting the continuous assault on the environment and forests posing a huge threat to the country.
The Supreme Court was hearing a plea filed by advocate on record Samar Vijay Singh who referred to the report submitted by the High-Level Committee formed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the chairmanship of former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian in 2014 which recommended the creation of a new All-India service, the "Indian Environment Service".
"However, the Parliament Standing Committee (PSC) rejected TSR Subramanian Report that reviewed various Acts administered by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change inter-alia noted that the three-month period given to the HLC for reviewing six environmental Acts was "too short" and recommended that the government should constitute a new committee to review the laws," the plea said. Senior advocate K Sultan Singh argued for the petitioner.
Justice Kaul's initial reaction to the PIL - "Do we take over governance" - was mollified through a long discussion initiated by Justice Sundresh and finally the bench said "though it is doubtful whether any mandamus can be issued (by the Supreme Court), but we are inquiring whether the Centre has decided to accept the recommendations of the Subramanian Committee."
The counsel said the governments are not serious about the protection of environment and that every single green jurisprudence and steps for the protection of environment has emerged from the Supreme Court, which has over decades passed a series of orders and judgments in this regard.
A parliament standing committee, however, rejected the report as it noted that the three-month period given to the HLC for reviewing six environmental laws was “too short”, and recommended a new committee be constituted.
Drawing strength from the Subramanian report, the petition said, “Looking at the current administrative set-up, it can be inferred that the government servants might not be able to spare special time for environmental causes…Seeing the scientific and technical nature of the environment sector, it can be assumed that officers with a background in environmental science can come up with better solutions for numerous issues.”
The report said, “Current approval systems and monitoring mechanism function in a quasiamateurish manner, leading to sub-optimal management of environmental issues. It is now proposed that a new Indian Environment Service be created, as an All India Service, which will act as an expert group to man positions in this field in the public and quasi-governmental sectors over the next decades.”
Officers dealing with environment clearances and policies currently come from the all-India civil services conducted by the UPSC.