Govt Think Tank Hand-Picked SC Rulings To Probe Judicial Activism - Shreegireesh Jalihal/ The Reporters’ Collective
The Niti Aayog wants to review the economic impacts of Supreme Court rulings on environmental-law violations. Its officials are supposedly not investigating ‘judicial activism’. Files we obtained using right-to-information laws show that is indeed what they are doing.
New Delhi: The government think tank Niti Aayog funded a study on the economic impact of judicial activism, overruling a warning from a top official that it served no purpose, according to documents accessed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
The RTI records reveal the Niti Aayog commissioned the study in January 2020 to examine five judgements of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal, including an order that had particularly irked the think tank’s CEO, Amitabh Kant.
Kant broke a bureaucratic covenant of not expressing partisan opinion and wrote an op-ed against a March 2019 apex court judgement, which criticised the Goa government, the union government and the National Green Tribunal.
According to the RTI records, CUTS International, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), suggested the study, which in effect makes a case against “judicial activism”. The proposal gained traction in the Aayog after CUTS International secretary-general Pradeep Mehta met Kant on 10 January 2019. The same day, the NGO mailed a proposal to Niti Aayog to do research “highlighting the economic impact of two Supreme Court decisions”.
One of these Supreme Court decisions was on the manufacture and sale of vehicles that did not meet Bharat Stage-IV emission standards. This had wide implications for public health because of vehicular air pollution. The other was a February 2018 judgement in a case called The Goa Foundation vs M/s Sesa Sterlite Limited & Others, related to unchecked, large-scale illegal mining in Goa.
A year later when CUTS was nominated, without inviting competitors through an open tender, to do the research for Rs 24.8 lakh, they were tasked to look at three more judgements, including one on environmental clearance to Mopa airport in Goa, an order that Kant believed was erroneous.
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Article-14.com, 10 June, 2021, https://www.article-14.com/post/govt-think-tank-hand-picked-sc-rulings-to-probe-judicial-activism