States ‘diverting’ funds meant for environment protection: SC

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure noting that states were “diverting” huge amount of funds, meant for protection of environment and benefit of people, to other purposes like municipal works.

A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said that around Rs 75,000 crore, including Rs 50,000 crore of the Compensatory Afforestation Funds Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), was lying with governments and asked whether there was any plan to utilise the money.

“What are the obligations of a state? It (these funds) is not for opening schools. It is meant for environment, rights of tribals in the villages. What is happening is that the states are diverting these funds to do municipal works and their other obligations,” the bench observed.

The bench had earlier asked the Centre as to how the huge amount of around Rs 75,000 crore, lying in the form of various funds created on the apex court’s orders for protection of the environment, was being utilised.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), told the bench that the funds were lying “safely” and the question was how to utilise it.

To this, the bench asked, “Will it be utilised in buying cars, laptops and washing machines?”,

“No,” Nadkarni responded and added that rules were being framed for utilisation of the money.

He said that rules were finalised at the level of the MoEF&CC and it was sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The bench then asked the counsel appearing for Odisha as to where these funds have been utilised by the state?

The state’s counsel said that certain expenditures made from these funds were “totally unrelated” to tribal welfare and about Rs 2 crore out of this amount was not used as per the intent of the apex court’s order. He said the amount would be replenished by the state in the fund.

Meanwhile, the counsel representing Meghalaya said that chief secretary of the state could not appear before the court today to attend the proceedings since there was some confusion about the date of hearing.

The bench directed that the chief secretary of Meghalaya appear before it on May 14.

It had earlier directed the chief secretary to appear before it after perusing the affidavit filed by Meghalaya in which it was said that funds meant for welfare of the people were kept in bank.

The apex court had earlier said there were around 10 to 12 funds which have been created after the apex court orders in environmental matters and as per information placed before it, amount lying in them was in the range of Rs 75,000 crore.

The issue had earlier cropped up when the court was hearing a matter related to environmental.
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