Supreme Court replaces chief of expert panel for Delhi-Dehradun expressway


‘No point in burdening Chief Secretaries of Uttarakhand or Uttar Pradesh,’ says Bench

‘No point in burdening Chief Secretaries of Uttarakhand or Uttar Pradesh,’ says Bench

The Supreme Court on Tuesday replaced the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary with the Director-General of Forests, Environment Ministry, as the chairman of an expert committee tasked to oversee compensatory afforestation and other mitigation measures for the Delhi-Dehradun Economic Corridor Expressway project.

“There is no point in burdening the Chief Secretaries of Uttarakhand or Uttar Pradesh with the committee,” a Bench led by Justices D.Y. Chandrachud reasoned orally.

The court made it clear that the replacement of the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary with C.P. Goyal should not be seen as an expression of lack of confidence in the senior bureaucrat. It was merely a step to “ensure that a broad understanding is facilitated in carrying out the work of implementation.”

The Bench also brought in Anil Prakash Joshi, founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation, and environmentalist Vijay Dhasmana as members of the panel.

The order was based on a plea by an NGO, Citizens for Green Doon, against a National Green Tribunal order.

The green panel had appointed the 12-member expert committee to be headed by Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand, with nominees of Wildlife Institute of India, Central Pollution Control Board, Uttarakhand State Pollution Control Board and others.

The tribunal had allowed the expressway project and formed the committee to prevent environmental damage by unscientific muck dumping or obstruction of animal corridor on the Ganeshpur-Dehradun Road (NH-72A) stretch.

However, the NGO, represented by advocate Ritwick Dutta, sought independent persons with expertise in wildlife mitigation structures to be made part of the panel.

The government, on the basis of the court’s suggestion and in the spirit of the matter, agreed to include independent experts in the committee. The court made it clear in the order that this should not be made a precedent in other pending cases.

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