NEW DELHI/TINSUKIA: The Supreme Court on Thursday said it is disappointed with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order on setting up a 10-member committee, which included an Oil India Ltd (OIL) official, to examine the damage caused by fire, to the biodiversity at Assam's Baghjan oil well.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud noted that the NGT included OIL official on the committee, despite holding the corporation responsible for losses.
The bench also comprising Justice M.R. Shah put on hold the green tribunal's order for constituting the committee.
The bench said, "We are surprised that NGT first holds that Oil India responsible for the damages to the environment and for destroying the wetlands and then its officer is made member of the committee to go into these issues."
The top court passed the order on an appeal challenging the February 19 tribunal order. The bench emphasized the tribunal "must have some alacrity and concerns for the environment".
The panel was tasked to assess damage to the environment and develop a remedial restoration plan, including Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, the Maguri-Motapung Wetland.
Justice Chandrachud noted OIL was accused of polluting the wetlands, but its MD was put on the inquiry committee.
Senior advocate Siddharth Mitra, representing petitioner Bonani Kakkar, called it a breach of the principal of justice, and stressed that somebody having direct conflict of interest was asked to adjudicate the matter.
He pointed out another committee led by former High Court judge B.P. Katakey has submitted a comprehensive report on the matter, which was followed by a progress report, and if new committee is set up, it will eventually delay the entire process.
After a hearing in the matter, the top court stayed the NGT order, and slated it for further hearing after two weeks.
The bench said it will constitute a new committee, which would examine all the issues and submit a report expeditiously. "We may monitor this ourselves. We are disappointed by the manner in which the NGT has simply pushed this off its hands," said the bench.
In February this year, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice AK Goel said it "prima facie" agrees that there was failure on the part of the OIL in taking safety precautions. The tribunal had emphasized that there was need for ensuring that such incidents did not recur.
On June 24, 2020, the NGT had constituted a committee headed by former High Court judge Katakey to look into the matter and submit a report. (IANS)
Our Tinsukia correspondent adds: Thecommittees were a six-member committee to fix the responsibility for the failure of the individuals concerned present at the incident and to lay down a road map for ensuring compliance of safety protocols; a seven-member committee to enquire into non-compliance with the statutory provisions; and a ten-member committee to assess the damage to and restoration of the National Park and Wetland.
Till the next date of listing, there will be a stay of the operation of the impugned judgment and order of the NGT of February 19 passed by Justice Ardesh Kr Goel, chairperson, Justice SK Singh, Judicial Member, and Dr Nagin Nanda, Expert Member, in original application no. 43/2020/EZ.