New Delhi: Friday’s Supreme Court question to the Centre about whether it planned to establish an Indian Environment Service in the National Bureaucratic Set-up. This was recommended by TSR Subramanian, a former Cabinet secretary.
Notice was issued on a petition by Samar Vijay Sing. A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, MM Sundresh stated: A prayer has been made in respect to the petition for the creation of an independent Indian Environment Service at all-India levels. The recommendation of the TSR Subramanian Committee is the basis for this prayer. It is not clear if a mandamus (judicial order) can be issued, but it can be questioned whether the government intends to follow the recommendations of the committee.
K Sultan Singh, a senior advocate, argued the petition. Singh pointed out that environmental issues require some degree of sensitivity as well as domain knowledge. Singh stated that it was noticed that environmental issues were not given sufficient attention when commissioning projects at field level.
Initially, the bench was not inclined to consider the petition. Do we now have to take over the governance? It was said at the opening of arguments by the petitioner. But, the top court issued notices after brief consultation and reading through the report and its recommendations.
Subramanian was the chairman of the high-ranking committee, which was established in August 2014 by the ministry for environment, forests andclimate change (MoEF & CC). Its purpose is to review and update the country’s environmental laws, and to make them conform to the current requirements. The report, which was submitted on November 18, 2014, noted that India had a strong and comprehensive environmental policy and legal framework, but that poor implementation has been criticized by conservationists and the judiciary.
The committee suggested that an Indian Environment Service be established, as an all-India Service. It would be based on the qualifications of the MoEF&CC/ DoPT/ UPSC. The committee also suggested that the necessary institutional framework be established for this purpose.
Officers who deal with policies or environment clearances currently come from the all India civil service, which is managed by the UPSC.
According to the report, current approval systems and monitoring mechanisms function in a semi-amateurish way, which leads to sub-optimal management. It is now suggested that an All India Service be established to create an Indian Environment Service. This will serve as an expert group to fill positions in the public and quasi-governmental sectors in the coming decades.
The report was rejected by the parliament standing committee. It stated that the HLC’s three-month review period for six environmental laws was too short and recommended the creation of a new committee.
The Subramanian report was used as the basis for the petition. It stated that it was possible to infer from the current administrative setup that government servants might not have the time or resources to devote to environmental causes. Given the technical and scientific nature of the environment sector it is reasonable that officers with an environmental science background could come up with better solutions.
The petition requested that the court direct the establishment of an Indian Environmental Service Academy, which would train officers in enforcing environmental laws.