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Supreme Court Orders Punjab Govt to Reimburse Forest Fund Used for Paying Lawyers' Fee

The court frowned upon the state government for diverting the CAMPA money to a "completely unconnected" objective and reproached it for using it to pay for litigation in the National Green Tribunal.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:October 8, 2018, 8:05 AM IST
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Supreme Court Orders Punjab Govt to Reimburse Forest Fund Used for Paying Lawyers' Fee
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
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New Delhi: Expressing strong displeasure at its conduct, the Supreme Court has ordered the Punjab government to pay back Rs 1.11 crore, which was drawn out of compensatory afforestation fund for paying lawyers.

A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur gave two weeks to the Punjab government for replenishing the compensatory afforestation (CAMPA) fund with the money wrongly withdrawn.

The court frowned upon the state government for diverting the CAMPA money to a "completely unconnected" objective and reproached it for using it to pay for litigation in the National Green Tribunal.

Following an order in August, Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni had submitted an inquiry report in the court and the report established that CAMPA funds was used by the state government towards litigation expenditure.

"CAMPA funds are not meant for payment of fees to lawyers. The State of Punjab is directed in terms of the order passed by the MoEF to reimburse the CAMPA funds to the extent of Rs.1,11,01,420/- within two weeks from today," ordered the bench.

The top court cortege reiterated that the money meant for afforestation will not be used by states for different purposes. "It is made clear that no State Government can use the funds for any activity other than afforestation," directed the bench.

In August, the bench had said it was "surprised" over reports that money meant for afforestation was used by the Punjab government to pay lawyers' fee in a deforestation case.

The ASG had then said that the Centre will conduct an audit.

The CAMPA funds were created under the orders of the top court on an environment-related matter, which was to be used for afforestation.

An amount of more than Rs 60,000 crore lies unspent in the CAMPA funds and the top court has urged the Centre to frame suitable rules expeditiously for utilisation of this money for environmental purposes.
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