A Supreme Court bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, on May 9, 2018, asked the state governments, whether there was any plan to utilise funds of around Rs 75,000 crores, including Rs 50,000 crores of the Compensatory Afforestation Funds Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). “What are the obligations of a state? It (these funds) is not for opening schools. It is meant for the environment, rights of tribals in the villages. What is happening, is that the states are diverting these funds to do municipal works and their other obligations,” the bench observed.
The bench had earlier asked the centre, as to how the huge amount of around Rs 75,000 crores, lying in the form of various funds created on the apex court’s orders for protection of the environment, was being utilised. During the hearing, additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), told the bench that the funds were lying ‘safely’ and the question was how to utilise it. To this, the bench asked, “Will it be utilised in buying cars, laptops and washing machines?” “No,” Nadkarni responded and added that rules were being framed for utilisation of the money. He said that rules were finalised at the level of the MoEF&CC and it was sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
The bench then asked the counsel appearing for Odisha, as to where these funds have been utilised by the state? The state’s counsel said that certain expenditures made from these funds were ‘totally unrelated’ to tribal welfare and about Rs two crores out of this amount, was not used as per the intent of the apex court’s order. He said the amount would be replenished by the state in the fund.
Meanwhile, the counsel representing Meghalaya, said that the chief secretary of the state could not appear before the court to attend the latest proceedings, since there was some confusion about the date of hearing. The bench directed that the chief secretary of Meghalaya appear before it on May 14, 2018.
It had earlier directed the chief secretary to appear before it, after perusing the affidavit filed by Meghalaya, in which it was said that funds meant for welfare of the people were kept in a bank. The apex court had earlier said there were around 10 to 12 funds, which had been created after the apex court’s orders on environmental matters and as per information placed before it, the amount lying in them was in the range of Rs 75,000 crores. The issue had earlier cropped up, when the court was hearing a matter related to environmental protection.