Government hires top firms to implement TSR Subramanian report on environmental laws

New Delhi,Nikhil M Ghanekar(dna): Even as a Parliamentary panel recommended in July that the TSR Subramanian report on revising and amending environment laws be scrapped, the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) is pushing ahead with creation of a framework on the report’s recommendations. Documents accessed by dna revealed that the MoEFCC have hired renowned consultancy firm Ernst and Young and one of the India’s biggest law firms Amarchand and Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff and Co for this job.

Government hires top firms to implement TSR Subramanian report on environmental laws

According to the ministry’s documents, the two firms have been hired as a consortium in the role of a ‘Technical Consultant’. The TSR Subramanian led high-level committee was formed in August last year to review six environment laws and were asked to “recommend specific amendments to bring them in line with current requirements to meet objectives”. After holding a total of 30 meetings with stakeholders across the country, the Subramanian committee made 55 key recommendations.

As technical consultants, the consultancy and the legal firm have been entrusted the job to prepare a ‘framework’ based on the recommendations of the Subramanian committee report and to “assist in finalisation of environment and related laws.” The MoEFCC will pay Rs1.33 crores to the technical consultants for their services, documents showed. dna mailed queries to Ernst and Young asking them to elucidate their expertise in the field of environment law and their past collaborations with MoEFCC. But the consultancy firm was not available for comment. According to ministry sources, a confidentiality clause also exists between MoEFCC and the consultancy firm on their collaboration. E&Y has been carrying out environment impact assessment reports for project proponents over the past several years.

The hiring of these two technical consultants show that the MoEFCC is actively looking at enforcing the recommendations of the Subramanian report that was criticised from all quarters including the parliamentary standing committee on science & technology, environment and forests.

While reviewing the Subramanian report, the parliamentary panel had questioned the composition and expertise of the high-level committee to recommend changes in environment laws. While asking the ministry to scrap the report, it had said, “an impression should not be created that a committee whose constitution and jurisdiction are itself in doubt has been used to tinker with the established law and policy.”

In its report on the six environment laws – Environment Protection Act, Wildlife Protection Act, Indian Forest Act, Forest Conservation Act, Water and Air Pollution Act – the Subramanian committee had recommended dilution of certain clearances pertaining to linear projects and even the Forest Rights Act, that did not come under its mandate. The committee’s report also recommended that a new umbrella law be created and said that instead of the National Green Tribunal district level administrative tribunals be created. The Subramanian committee had also suggested that on the principle of ‘utmost good faith’ a system of self-certification be created for industry’s compliance of environment laws.

“The ministry’s decision to hire these technical consultants for working on the Subramanian report is questionable. The committee’s report had been squarely criticised for its content, process and composition,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal research director, Centre for Policy Research – Namati, environment justice programme.

Framework will be prepared
As technical consultants, the consultancy and the legal firm have been entrusted the job to prepare a ‘framework’ based on the recommendations of the Subramanian committee report and to “assist in finalisation of environment and related laws.” The MoEFCC will pay Rs1.33 crores to the technical consultants for their services, documents showed. dna mailed queries to Ernst and Young asking them to elucidate their expertise in the field of environment law and their past collaborations with MoEFCC. But the consultancy firm was not available for comment