The NDA government has recently proposed to bring a law to slash the number of tribunals from present 36 to 18.
"Is the government going to abolish the tribunals? The media reports say so," a bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who was representing Maharashtra government in an appeal filed against an order of the National Green Tribunal.
The NGT had stopped the chairpersons of 10 state pollution control boards (SPCBs), including that of Maharashtra, from assuming office and start working with immediate effect on the ground that they have not been appointed in consonance with the judgement of the tribunal.
The state government, besides other reliefs, is seeking an immediate stay on the NGT order.
Mr Mehta said NGT order was not justified as it cannot direct making of rules in a particular manner.
"A tribunal which itself is created under the statutes cannot direct making of rules in a particular manner. The NGT order of June 8 needs to be stayed," the ASG said.
The bench then observed, "that's why you are saying that you will abolish the tribunals".
Mr Mehta said "No, I am representing a state but the issue at hand is a national issue".
The green panel on June 8 had ordered the chiefs of SPCBs of Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Manipur to stop functioning.
Maharashtra has contended that the NGT order has brought the working of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to a standstill.
The NGT had slammed the 10 states for making ad-hoc appointments and granted three months to Delhi government and two months to Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for making appointments to their pollution control boards as per the guidelines issued by it.
In August last year, it had asked state governments to fill the vacancies in the boards as per the guidelines laid down by it and file the report. It had asked them why they should not be directed to stop functioning as chairmen as they were not appointed in compliance with the judgement of the tribunal.
The green panel, which had issued a slew of guidelines for appointments to the posts of chairman and member secretary, had in August said the nominations should be of persons who have "special knowledge, practical experience or qualification in environment protection studies" and not on the ground of their association with state government.
The tribunal said the chairman or member secretary should have a fixed term, which should not be extended. Such persons should not hold office in the board in accordance to their tenure in state government.
The judgement had come on a plea by Uttarakhand resident Rajendra Singh Bhandari, who had challenged the constitution of state pollution control boards on the ground that people who did not qualify were appointed as chairman, member secretary and members of these boards.
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