Supreme Court Issues New Guidelines and Principles for Environmental Bodies

Case title: In Re: T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs Union Of India And Ors.

Case no.: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 202/1995

Decided on: 31.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice B.R Gavai, Hon’ble Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, Hon’ble Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra.


The Central Empowered Committee’s institutionalisation and reconstitution are the subject of the current writ petition. On May 9, 2002, this Court issued an order mandating the CEC’s formation. The CEC functioned as a body ad hoc.

In accordance with Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change subsequently published a Notification on September 5, 2023, creating the CEC as an ongoing entity.

The court stated that the CEC would continue to operate in accordance with any orders and directives that it may issue from time to time, even as it approved the Notification.

In Part I of the ruling in this case, the court described the CEC’s establishment, purpose, and institutionalisation. The court endeavoured to formulate new principles in Part II for the efficient oversight of diverse entities, establishments, and authorities instituted to safeguard our woodlands, fauna, surroundings, and ecosystem.


The court directed the CEC to take the necessary actions to advance institutional accountability, efficiency, and transparency in its operations:

  • Guidelines for its operations and internal meetings will be developed by the CEC. Operating procedures outlining the responsibilities of the CEC Secretary and its members must be developed by the CEC.
  • The CEC must create guidelines for public meetings, publish agendas on its website in advance, maintain meeting minutes, and establish rules for notice to parties.
  • The CEC will create guidelines for site visits and may conduct public hearings with affected parties.
  • The CEC will establish guidelines for setting time limits for site visits and report preparation, as well as the method of preparation.
  • The court ordered that these guidelines/regulations be easily accessible to all. They will be made available through the CEC’s official website.

In order to effectively oversee the numerous organisations, committees, and authorities set up to safeguard our forests, wildlife, ecosystem, and environment, the court issued some guidelines. The following institutional characteristics must be present in the organisations, authorities, regulators, and executive offices charged with environmental duties:

  • Clarify the composition, qualifications, tenure, appointment, and removal procedures for these authorities. Furthermore, appointments must be made on a regular basis to ensure continuity, and these bodies must be staffed with individuals who possess the necessary knowledge, technical expertise, and specialisation to function efficiently.
  • Authorities and bodies require adequate funding and clear financial transparency.
  • Clearly define the mandate and roles of each authority and body to avoid overlap and duplication of work. Establish a method for constructive coordination among institutions.
  • It is imperative for authorities and bodies to publish rules, regulations, and guidelines on their website, preferably in regional languages. In place of office memos, the authority or body may issue comprehensive guidelines in a standardised format and notify those in place of having the authority to create rules or regulations.
  • These bodies must establish detailed rules and regulations, as well as procedures for granting permissions, consents, and approvals.
  • The bodies and authorities are required to announce procedures for public hearings, the decision-making process, the right of appeal prescription, and deadlines.
  • By outlining the precise division of tasks and responsibilities among their officers, these bodies must specify the accountability mechanism.
  • The way these authorities operate needs to be frequently and methodically audited

The court concluded by saying that it is the responsibility of constitutional courts to guarantee that these environmental bodies have the resources and strong infrastructure necessary to carry out their duties. The constitutional courts will supervise these organisations’ operations, making sure that the ecology and environment are not only preserved but also improved.


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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

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