The Bihar government has told the National Green Tribunal that it would appoint a permanent head of the state pollution control board (SPCB) in two months, but has assigned its Environment Principal Secretary on an interim basis as its chairman. The assurance came after the NGT had questioned the state governments and Union Territory administrations on top appointments in their state pollution control boards and directed them to fill the vacancies with persons of requisite qualification within three months. The Nitish Kumar government told a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar that the newly appointed Chairman of the Board was fully qualified to hold the post as per the judgment of the Tribunal. Advocate Gautam Singh, appearing for the state government, told the tribunal that the IAS officer Vivek Kumar Singh has been posted on an interim basis and a regular chairman would be appointed within two months. "He (lawyer for Bihar) further submits that the Member Secretary who is an officer from Indian Forest Service has been appointed on interim basis and a new incumbent, in accordance with law and guidelines as stated in the Judgment, would be appointed shortly.
This process should be completed within three months," the bench said. The NGT also directed the Bihar government to abide by its statement and file a compliance report within two months. The green panel had issued a slew of guidelines for appointments to the posts of Chairman and Member Secretary, those to be appointed should have special knowledge, practical experience or qualification in environment protection studies and "not on the ground of their association with state government". The post of Chairman/Member Secretary should be advertised and thrown open for all candidates irrespective of the fact whether they are in the government, academia or in private sector, so as to attract the best talent, it had said. The tribunal had said the Chairman or Member Secretary should have a fixed term, which should not be extended for more than one term. Such persons should not hold office in the Board in accordance to their tenure in State Government. The judgement had come on a plea by Uttarakhand resident Rajendra Singh Bhandari, who had challenged the constitution of state pollution control boards on the ground that people who did not qualify were appointed as Chairman, Member Secretary and Members of these boards. According to the plea, these appointments were bound to affect environmental issues seriously in as much as the grant of consents under Prevention and Control of Pollution Act and the entire regulatory regime depended on the effective working of these boards.