Even as the National Green Tribunal is riddled with vacancies across its benches, the Centre has passed a notification allowing the NGT chairperson to “constitute a single-member bench” in “exceptional circumstances.”
The Ministry of Environment and Forests on December 1 amended the National Green Tribunal (Practices and Procedure) Rules, 2011. According to the earlier rules, the bench consisted of “two or more members” with at least one judicial member and another expert. However, the amended rule has included an additional clause which said: “Provided that in exceptional circumstances the chairperson may constitute a single-member bench.” The notification does not define the “exceptional circumstances”.
At present, the regional benches in Chennai and Kolkata are both functioning with one judicial member each and the expert members have retired. The expert member of the principal bench in Delhi is expected to retire later this week.
Earlier this year, the Centre tweaked the norms for appointment and selection of chairpersons of various tribunals including the NGT.
Though the NGT Act, 2010, made it mandatory for the NGT chairperson to be a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of High Court, the rules instead, said that even a judicial member or expert member for three years is qualified to be a chairperson of the NGT.