SC seeks details of Rs 1 lakh crore of eco-protection funds

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New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to provide the details of various funds created for environment protection and how it intends to utilise the funds worth nearly Rs one lakh crore.

An advocate, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, said on a rough estimate, there was about Rs one lakh crore lying with the Central government and states in various funds created after the top court’s orders.

Taking into note the advocate’s submissions, a bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta asked the Ministry to make a compilation of total amount in various funds.

“Considering the huge amount, we expect the Ministry Secretary to take up the matter with due sincerity,” the bench added.

The court also asked the Delhi government to inform it of the plans it has for utilisation of Rs 1,301 crore it has received under Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) upto March 26.

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The apex court had earlier imposed ECC on commercial vehicles entering Delhi in addition to the toll tax.

The bench also asked the Central Pollution Control Board to apprise it about Rs 70.5 crore collected and lying with it under the cess levied on vehicles having engine capacity of more than 2,000 cc.

The bench slammed the Central government and states for not being able to utilise the funds and diverting it for other purpose.

It noted that around 10 to 12 funds were created after the apex court orders on environmental matters. “It is very clear that the amount was used for other purposes…”

Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni, appearing for the Ministry, asked the bench to tell the Central government as to where and how these funds should be used and where it cannot be used.

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The court replied: “This money can’t go for any other government project.”

“How far you want the court to go? We trusted the executive but they say they will do whatever they want. First, we have to catch them that you have diverted the money and betrayed the trust. Are we policemen or investigating officers? We are not talking about a small amount… It is very, very frustrating.”

The court pulled up the Odisha government after taking into note the affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary that the money was being used for construction of roads, renovation of bus stands and science laboratory in colleges.

“This money is to be utilised for the benefit of the people. It is not for repairing roads or bus stands and installing streetlights. Construction of road is part of your job, governance. You can’t do it from people’s fund. This money is for benefit of people and not for benefit of the government,” the bench told the counsel appearing for Odisha.

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The court sought presence of Odisha’s Chief Secretary before it on May 9, the next date of hearing, and asked the state to file affidavit with more details.

It also slammed Meghalaya for keeping the funds meant for welfare of the people only in the bank and asked the state’s Chief Secretary to remain present before it.

The court was hearing a PIL filed in 1985 by environmentalist M.C. Mehta relating to issues of air pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region.

–IANS

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