23-Mar-2007

The Motive Is Everything

From The Hindu:
It is still under wraps. Despite an effort made through the Right to Information, no one outside government has seen it. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has proposed to introduce the Environment Tribunal Bill, which envisages the setting up of "green" courts to deal with environmental disputes. Why is this necessary? How will the "green" courts work? Who will benefit from them?
...
The excuse being used to set up an environmental tribunal is that there are too many cases pending in courts. A Central tribunal in Delhi and regional ones, it is argued, will take the burden off the courts. The plan is based on the assumption that the groups presently taking matters to court will be satisfied with the civil remedies that the environmental tribunal will offer. What is not so well known is that apart from communities with grievances, proponents of projects can use the tribunals to clear their projects if they feel aggrieved that they have been denied permission on environmental grounds. The government would argue that such a set-up would obviate the need for specific committees as the tribunal could set up its own committees to look into specific projects.

On the surface, this appears reasonable. But people selected by the government will man the tribunals. When the majority of the cases that land up in court concern government policy and the perception of groups and communities that the government is violating its own laws, how can such tribunals be viewed as impartial?

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