GUWAHATI, July 2 - With both the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court consistently voicing concern over the functioning of many state pollution control boards (SPCBs) across the country, especially in the matter of appointment of undeserving persons at the helm of affairs, one expects the Assam government to strictly adhere to the relevant norms as it goes about the task of appointing a full-fledged chairman and reconstituting the board.
Official sources told The Assam Tribune that the functioning of the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) had over the years suffered a lot as it was not manned by competent persons as heads.
�There are stipulations and guidelines concerning the appointment of chairperson who is supposed to be a competent authority having special knowledge or practical experience in the domain which he administers. Similarly, the member secretary�s post also entails fulfilment of certain laid-down conditions. Compromising on these criteria is tantamount to undermining the board�s functioning,� sources said.
While the NGT recently asked a number of state governments to reconsider appointments in SPCBs, and laid down guidelines for such appointments, the Supreme Court intervened by saying that the NGT did not necessarily had to make the decision on appointments.
The Supreme Court, however, agreed with the NGT that such appointments should not be made casually or without due application of mind, considering the duties, functions and responsibilities of the SPCBs.
The apex court also echoed the NGT�s ruling, observing that �the SPCBs continue to be manned by persons who do not necessarily have the necessary expertise or professional experience to address the issues for which the SPBCs were established by the law.�
�The apex court also left open to public-spirited individuals to move the appropriate high court for the issuance of a writ of quo warranto if any person who does not meet the statutory or constitutional requirements is appointed as chairperson or member of any SPCBs or is presently serving as such,� sources said, referring to the apex court ruling.
The Assam government recently appointed an IFS officer as chairman-in-charge while the post of member secretary has been vacant for more than three years. The last board meeting too was held more than three years back, whereas meetings are mandated to be held once in three months.
The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 requires that the chairperson of an SPCB must have �special knowledge or practical experience in respect of matters relating to environmental protection. The member secretaries, likewise, are required to possess qualification, knowledge and experience of scientific, engineering or management aspects of pollution control, and must be engaged on a full-time basis.�
Sources said the Central government had also repeatedly been urging the state governments, including the Assam government, to appoint people who could add value and stature to the SPBCs and utilize their expertise in preserving the environment but �with little response.�