The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde on Tuesday asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to consider adding the jurisdiction of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) to the National Green Tribunal and inform the bench in a week.
The CJI said this during arguments in the case examining the threat posed by high-tension powerlines in Rajasthan to birds such as the endangered Great Indian Bustard and similar other birds. Senior advocate Shyam Divan was arguing when the CJI, leading the bench which also comprises Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramaniam, said if the NGT is dealing with the matter, they could wait for the NGT order. To this, Divan said the NGT doesn’t have jurisdiction over the WPA even though it has the Forest Act and the Environment Protection Act in its purview.
Earlier, the Court questioned Divan on what happened to its order of constituting an expert committee. Divan replied a committee had been formed with three persons and the Rajasthan government and other respondents had not objected to the panel. He added that the population of the Great Indian Bustard is down to 100 and one bird died as recently as September due to high-tension cables.
The CJI said, “The lines must have been erected by some licensees, why don’t you join those licensees?”
Divan said they have already been made parties. Moreover, steps have been taken to put power lines underground. He said diverters, which hangs from transmission lines, should be installed which will help the birds to identify the direction.
The CJI sad, “How can we order both for diverters and also making the transmission lines underground?” Divan replied that diverters can be an immediate solution.
The CJI then said the bench will give orders for replacing overhead transmission lines with underground power lines in specific areas and would need to study map. Divan said the map had already been placed before the court. Reacting to this, the CJI said they are only grey, blue and white lines and areas cannot be identified on the map, and asked for a better map on the next date of hearing