Conflict of interest questions raised after the government’s latest NGT appointments

The government has overlooked the rule to change the tenure of appointees in the National Green Tribunal after tweaking the duration of the tenure of information officers.

Das has himself admitted that he still has a few months left before retirement from his position at the ministry. He said that he cannot comment on why the term is three years. He has about eight months till retirement. He will discuss with the [NGT] chairman and decide what to do. One needs to serve three-month notice for voluntary retirement.

Matters that reach the NGT are challenges to decisions taken by the ministry that Dasgupta and Das are working for. According to a senior lawyer Ritwick Dutta, this raises questions of conflict of interest.

In 2017, the Centre attempted to change the manner in which members of the NGT are appointed by giving itself complete control. However, the Supreme Court had stayed the move saying that it has excessive executive influence. The apex court also said that rules under the NGT Act, 2010, should be followed for appointments and terminations. 

Section 7 of the NGT Act, 2010 has specified that the chairperson, judicial members and expert members shall be appointed for a term of five years and shall not be reappointed.

This also goes against the NGT’s rules which state that a member can only be removed with the consultation of the Chief Justice of India and after an inquiry conducted by a judge in the Supreme Court. 

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