We are being ‘befooled’ by the executive, says ‘frustrated’ Supreme Court

“We are being befooled by the executive”, was how a “frustrated” Supreme Court said on Tuesday while ruing the fact that around Rs one lakh crore worth of funds meant to protect the environment and benefit the people, was being diverted for other purposes.

Severely criticising the government, the supreme court observed that it had “trusted” the executive, but the authorities do not work. And when the court says something, it is said that there is “judicial overreach and activism”.

A bench, comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, made it clear that this huge amount of money, collected under various funds created on the apex court’s orders for protection of environment, was to be used only for environmental purposes and benefit of the people.

“It is very clear that the amount was used for purposes, other than what it was entrusted. How far you want the court to go? We trusted the executive but they say they will do whatever they want,” the bench said.

“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,” the bench said, adding, “It is very, very frustrating”.

It said around Rs 11,700 crore was there in the Compensatory Afforestation Funds Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which was created under the top court’s order, and the total amount lying in all such funds would come to around Rs one lakh crore. However, one of the lawyers told the court that around Rs 11,000 crore from CAMPA was already spent and the total amount in it would be around Rs 50,000 crore.

“What we are supposed to do? You people do not work. It is completely beyond imagination,” the bench observed, adding, “when we say, it is said there is judicial overreach and judicial activism. We are being befooled by the executive”.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni, appearing for Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), said the court should tell the Union of India as to where and how these funds should be used and where it cannot be used.

“It (money) cannot be used for civic or municipal purposes,” he said.

The bench noted that there was around Rs 90,000 to Rs one lakh crore money which was lying with the Centre and the states under various heads consequent to the court orders and directed the secretary of MoEF&CC to make a compilation of all the funds, amounts lying in it as on March 31 this year.

“Secretary of the MoEF&CC is further directed to give us some indication as to how amount of Rs one lakh crore is intended to be utilised and areas where it should not be utilised,” the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing on May 9.

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