HC orders Western Ghat report to be made public
The Delhi High Court has dismissed the plea of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) against making public an ecology report on the Western Ghats. The MoEF had filed an appeal against the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to make the report public. It was claimed that disclosure would affect the “scientific or economic interests of the State” and also impede the decision-making process, involving consultation with the states affected by the recommendations in the report. The Ministry also argued that the materials, which have gone into the preparation of the Western Ghats Ecology Panel (WGEEP) report, have already been made public and the entire report could be disclosed only after consultation with the affected state governments of the Western Ghats region is completed and a final decision with regard to acceptance / rejection is taken.
While dismissing the appeal filed by the Ministry, Justice Vipin Sanghi held: “A policy evolved in the largest public interest and public good can certainly not be said to be against the strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State.” Further, the Delhi HC refused to make any amendments to the CIC order to ensure all reports of commissions and special panels are posted on website of Ministry within 30 days of being received.
This opens the way for making public the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), under the chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil, and its report on the Athirappilly hydro-electric project in Kerala.
This HC judgment is very significant not only for the environmentalists, but also for others who desire to have copies of any Committee. It is yet to be seen whether the ministry would like to go to the Supreme Court against the order.