How is the Rs 75,000-crore environment protection fund being used: SC asks government

[] The Supreme Court has sought a reply from the centre, on how it is utilising around Rs 75,000 crores, lying in various funds, for the protection of the environment

The Supreme Court, on March 14, 2018, wanted to know from the centre how a ‘huge amount’ of around Rs 75,000 crores, lying in various funds created on the apex court’s orders for protection of the environment, was being utilised, saying this fund was good enough to bring about a change. The court said the amount involved was ‘not small’ and directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) to provide the status of these funds, with a specific answer whether the money was being utilised for environment protection, rehabilitation and welfare of citizens.

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A three-judge bench headed by justice MB Lokur, said there were around 10 to 12 funds, which have been created after the apex court orders on environmental matters and as per information placed before it, the amount lying in them was in the range of Rs 70,000-75,000 crores. “What are you doing? So many funds have been created under the orders of this court. Which are these funds and what is the amount lying in these funds,” the bench, which also comprised justices Kurian Joseph and Deepak Gupta, asked the MoEF. Additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the MoEF, told the bench that the ministry would update the court about it. He said a meeting was scheduled between the MoEF and Ministry of Finance, with regard to Compensatory Afforestation Funds Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

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To this, the bench asked, “What do you propose to do with this money? We are not talking about a small amount. We are talking about Rs 70,000 crores. If this amount is used for environment protection, it will bring a change,” the bench said. It also asked about the status of funds collected under the Environment Compensation Charge (ECC), which the apex court had earlier imposed on commercial vehicles entering Delhi, in addition to the toll tax.

“We will register a suo motu (on its own) application regarding utilisation of these funds. We would like the MoEF to tell us how much money is lying in these funds, because it appears that the money lying in this is in the range of Rs 70,000 crores. We want to know about it,” the bench said and directed the apex court registry to register a suo motu plea.

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It referred to the information provided by an advocate, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter and said that total amount lying in these funds was ‘stated to be in the range of Rs 70,000 to Rs 75,000 crores, approximately’. “Undoubtedly, this is a huge amount, which can be used for benefit of environmental protection and rehabilitation,” it said. “We accordingly direct the MoEF to give us the status of various funds that have been created all over the country and amount lying in each of these funds as on March 31, 2018,” the court said and asked the amicus to independently carry out his exercise in this regard.

It also asked the MoEF to apprise it about any proposal which has been framed, for utilisation of these funds and for its monitoring. The court, which fixed the matter for hearing in the first week of April 2018, was hearing a matter which has raised various issues related to environment including illegal mining in several states.

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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