Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who retired from the Supreme Court of India on July 6, 2018, has been appointed as the new Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
He has been appointed to the position for a term of five years, as per an order issued by the personnel ministry. The post of NGT chairperson had been lying vacant for more than 6 months after the retirement of Justice Swatanter Kumar on December 20, 2017.
Following Justice Kumar's retirement, Justice Umesh Dattatraya Salvi was appointed as the acting chairperson of the NGT. He retired on February 13. Following this, Justice Jawad Rahim was appointed as the acting chairperson.
The NGT's functioning has been hit by vacancies as the tribunal is left with less than one-third of its sanctioned strength of 20 officials. At present, there is only one functional court at the Principal bench in the national capital comprising Justice Rahim, Justice R S Rathore and S S Garbyal.
The tribunal's principal bench is located in New Delhi while its zonal benches are in Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai and its circuit benches are in Shimla, Shillong, Jodhpur and Kochi.
The National Green Tribunal was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
It was set up for the enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
It is a specialised body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
Various important matters relating to the environment such as air pollution, Ganga and Yamuna rejuvenation, Vaishno Devi, challenge to various redevelopments projects in Delhi, Volkswagen emission fiasco and others are pending before the tribunal.
About Justice AK Goel
• Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel was the first person from Haryana to become a Supreme Court judge. He was appointed to the position in July 2014.
• During his 4-year tenure, he was a part of a bench of justices who heard various contentious social and religious issues such as triple talaq, Dalit Atrocities Law, abuse of the SC/ST Act and safeguards for women in matrimonial disputes.
• The judge is known for taking a path-breaking step of referring the issue of divorce through instant triple talaq among Muslims to a five-judge constitution bench which held it as ‘illegal and arbitrary’.
• He will be remembered as a courageous judge because the issue of triple talaq arose when Justice Goel along with Justice A R Dave (since retired) was hearing the issue of alimony and Hindu succession law.
• The judge also came into spotlight with his March 20 judgement expressing concern over rampant misuse of the SC/ST Act the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and holding that there would be no automatic arrest under the law and a primary enquiry must be conducted by the police before taking any action.
• In another significant hearing recently, Justice Goel decided to examine whether civil liability can be fastened on a man, who walked out of a promise to marry a woman after long cohabitation and a consensual sexual relationship, by treating such a relation as "de-facto" marriage.
• In another significant order, the judge said that there was no need for privacy in courtrooms as nothing private happens there, as he favoured early installation of closed-circuit televisions in the courts.
• On July 5, 2018, the judge came out with a major order directing the Jagannath temple management to consider allowing every visitor, irrespective of their faith, to offer prayers to the deity.
• The order also stated that not only the state but even the Centre could look into the aspect of difficulties faced by the visitors, deficiencies in the management, maintenance of hygiene, appropriate utilisation of offerings and protection of assets with regard to shrines.
• Justice Goel was also part of another landmark judgement delivered on October 16, 2016, which squashed National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act that sought to give the executive a say in the appointment of top judges, on grounds that it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
• In a separate judgement, the judge had held that the 99th constitutional amendment to replace the collegium system on the appointment of judges to higher judiciary damages the basic feature of the Constitution by which the primacy of judiciary has been given a go-bye.
• In April, he said that investigating agencies in India are not fully equipped and prepared for the use of videography but time was ‘ripe’ that steps are taken to introduce it in the probe, particularly for crime scene, to strengthen the rule of law.
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