A bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna noted that as on July 23, there were 7 vacant posts of judicial members and 6 vacant posts of expert members in the NGT. “We accede to the request made by the applicant(s) to correct the number of vacancies of judicial and expert members in order dated July 23. The same shall now be read as 7 Judicial Members and 6 Expert Members”, noted the bench.
The bench added that in addition, it is reported that one expert member had tendered resignation on July 17 while one expert member had superannuated on July 30, but is continuing in office in terms of order dated July 23. “We are also informed that the applicant(s) have already published advertisement for filling up of 9 vacancies towards Judicial members vide notification dated July 31 and the process of filling up of 6 vacant posts of expert members is at an advance stage”, said the bench.
The top court observation came on the petition filed by NGT Bar Association (western zone) aggrieved by the delay in filling up of vacancies. The bench asked the selection committee to expedite the processes so that the applicants will be able to issue appointment letters to meet the piquant situation created due to reduced working strength of the tribunal, only to 7 Members. “This is opposed to the mandate of Section 4, to ensure that the minimum strength of the Tribunal at any given point of time shall not be less than ten Members”, observed the top court.
The top court said it hopes the selection process for judicial members is also speeded up because the mandate of law is that the strength of judicial members and expert members should ordinarily be equivalent. “In other words, merely expediting the selection process for expert members alone may result in mis-match in the ratio between the two sources (Judicial Member and Expert Member)”, said the top court. The matter is listed for further hearing in the third week of September.