Criteria for Selection of Experts in Tribunals Needs More Clarity

Synopsis: Centre needs to enact rules for the selection of Experts in NGT Tribunals with clarity and objectivity.

  • The criteria used for the appointments of NGT members are not clearly defined by the central government, giving way to litigations.
  • Recently, the appointment of former IAS officer, Girija Vaidyanathan, as Expert Member in the Southern Bench of the NGT was challenged in the Madras High court.
Why Tribunals are formed?
  • One, the need for specialisation and expertise to decide complex cases of a technical nature. Experts appointed to these tribunals bring in special knowledge and experience.
  • Two, tribunalisation’ of justice will be cost-effective, accessible.

What are the criteria for the appointment of Expert members to the tribunal?

As per the NGT act there are two criteria for the appointment of Expert members to the NGT tribunal. A candidate has to fulfil only one of them.

  1. One based on qualifications and practical experience: a masters’ or a doctorate in science, engineering or technology, with 15 years’ experience in the relevant field, including five in environment and forests in a national level institution, is needed. The fields include pollution control, hazardous substance management and forest conservation.
  2. Two, administrative experience in the field: This condition is not clearly defined. It merely stipulates 15 years’ experience, of which five should have been in “dealing with environmental matters” in either the Centre or the State or any reputed institution.
Why the appointment of Girija Vaidyanathan has been challenged?
  • In Ms. Vaidyanathan’s case, she has served in Environmental related sectors for only 28 months that is less than the prescribed criteria of 5 years.
What did the court say?
  • The court opined that the appointment is valid considering her tenure as Health Secretary.
  • However, the court declined to interfere with the appointment, as the jurisdiction of this matter comes under the domain of Parliament.
What is the way forward?
  1. The government should redefine the criteria for appointments through administrative experience with clarity and objectivity.
  2. It needs to implement Supreme Court directions to constitute a National Tribunals Commission to supervise the appointment and functioning of tribunals. Source: The Hindu
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