Disappointed by the "misuse" of huge funds, meant for the protection of the environment and the benefit of people, for other purposes like municipal works by the states, the Supreme Court on Monday said the whole purpose of creating the fund is lost.
"The funds are for environment purposes. How can you (Meghalaya) spend the amount for some other purpose? This is clear, absolute misutilisation of money. It's not fair at all," a bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur said after Meghalaya said it had kept the funds in a bank and spent a portion on construction of roads and footpaths.
Observing that many states had diverted the environment funds to other purposes, the bench even said the "Central government should stop giving the money as state governments are misusing it", and sought assistance of Additional Solicitor General (Centre's lawyer) A.N.S. Nadkarni on the appropriate and proper utilisation of funds in all the states.
Earlier, the apex court had reprimanded the Odisha government after it was told that the environment fund was being used for construction of roads, renovation of bus stands and science laboratories in colleges.
After the top court's order around 10 to 12 funds were created for environmental matters and amount lying in them was nearly Rs 75,000 crore.
During the hearing, Meghalaya Chief Secretary Yeshi Tsering was present before the bench pursuant to its earlier order, and said that money has been kept in a bank and some portion was spent on excursion and study tours and studies outside the state, construction of footpaths, community halls, school buildings, public sanitation, roads, water supply projects, etc.
The bench expressed displeasure that environment funds were being spent by states on projects which were part of their governance.
"There are certain things which you as a state obliged to do. How can you take money from the environment fund? Construction of road is your job as a state. How can you do this? Tomorrow you will start paying salary to the staff from the fund, saying it's for the environment purpose. This is clear misutilisation of money. Whole purpose (of environment fund) is lost," the bench told the Chief Secretary of Meghalaya.
The apex court noted that not only Meghalaya but other states too were diverting or misusing the environment fund, and sought Nadkarni's assistance on appropriate and proper utilisation of funds.
"Prima facie it appears to us that the funds are being used for the purposes other than what was intended by this court. We would like to have the assistance of Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni with regard to appropriate and proper utilisation of funds not only by the state of Meghalaya but by all other states," said the bench.
It posted the matter relating to the environmental protection for further hearing on July 19.
Earlier, the bench had asked the Centre how huge amounts to the tune 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.
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