The Supreme Court; while hearing a petition filed by Advocate On-Record, Samar Vijay Singh; issued a notice to the Centre, asking whether it was planning to establish a dedicated ‘Indian Environmental Service’ in the national bureaucratic set-up, as recommended by a committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramaniyam in 2014. But the bench comprising Justices SK Kaul & MM Sundresh remarked that it has prima facie doubt as to how a writ of mandamus can be issued on such a prayer while seeking a response from the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change.
The high-level committee was constituted in August 2014 under the chairmanship of Subramanian by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change to review environmental laws in the country, and to bring them in line with the current requirements. The report, submitted on November 18, 2014, recorded the fact that India had a strong environmental policy and legislative framework but weak implementation has resulted in environmental governance being criticized by conservation experts and the judiciary. As a step for the future, the committee said, “An Indian Environment Service may be created, as an All-India Service, based on qualifications and other details prescribed by MoEF&CC/ DoPT/ UPSC.” The committee also proposed that a necessary institutional framework be created for this purpose. Officers dealing with environment clearances and policies currently come from the All-India Civil Services conducted by the UPSC. The report had also proposed a National Environment Research Institute “on the lines of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education” to bring in the application of high-end technology in environmental governance.
A parliament standing committee, however, rejected the report as it noted that the three-month period given to the HLC for reviewing six environmental laws was “too short”, and recommended a new committee be constituted. Drawing strength from the Subramanian report, the petition said, “Looking at the current administrative set-up, it can be inferred that the government servants might not be able to spare special time for environmental causes…Seeing the scientific and technical nature of the environment sector, it can be assumed that officers with a background in environmental science can come up with better solutions for numerous issues.” The petition also sought directions from the court to set up an Indian Environmental Service Academy to train officers for enforcing environmental laws.