Justice Swatanter Kumar takes over as first NGT chief

Justice Swatanter Kumar on Thursday became the first chairperson of the National Green Tribunal — the apex body constituted under a 2010 Act for deciding cases pertaining to environmental protection and conservation of forests and natural resources.

As he assumed his office, Justice Kumar, a Supreme Court judge, also earned the distinction of becoming the first apex court judge to take over as the head of this tribunal after demitting his judgeship. The NGT was till date functioning without a full-time chief.

According to sources, his appointment was notified earlier this week by the Centre and he was requested to take charge. On Thursday, Justice Kumar sent an official communication in this regard to the Chief Justice of India and other authorities in the SC. Justice Kumar's term in the apex court officially ends on December 30.

His appointment comes days after Chief Justice Altamas Kabir conveyed to the Centre his agreement with predecessor Justice S H Kapadia's recommendation for appointment of Justice Kumar as the NGT chief.

The government had earlier sought certain "clarifications" from Justice Kabir over appointment of Justice Kumar despite Justice Kapadia's recommendation. Subsequently, an SC Bench, which is adjudicating a matter relating to appointment of members to the tribunal and proper functioning of the NGT, had taken exception to the government's move.

It had questioned Additional Solicitor General A S Chandhiok's submission that the appointment of the NGT chairperson had not been notified since the file had been re-sent to the new CJI for some "clarifications".

The Bench had asked for a categorical undertaking from the Centre as to by when it intended to appoint the new chief and make the NGT properly functional. On December 12, government's counsel told the court that the NGT chairperson's appointment shall be notified within four weeks. The Bench then posted the matter for further consideration on January 28.

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