What are National Green Tribunals?

Prior to 18 October 2010, all matters pertaining to environmental protection and safeguard were dealt with by the judiciary under Articles 51 (g) and 48A of the Indian constitution[1]. However, post this the National Green Tribunals (NGT) were established, in accordance with the Central Government’s notification.[2]

In M.C. Mehta vs. UOI[3], the need for a speedy and a more efficient forum for adjudication of environmental law issues was discussed. Such environmental issues often require scientific understanding of issues which is effectively dealt with by this tribunal. Therefore, inconsonance with the 186th Report of the Law Commission of India,[4] the discussions made in the Rio and Stockholm declarations, and the right to healthy and clean environment provided under Article 21[5], the NGTs were set up. Immense backlog of cases has led to massive overburdening for the judiciary, thereby creating the need for such a tribunal. The forum constitutes of learned judicial experts, thereby empowering it to set significant rationales and judgements. It is further authorized to address all civil environmental law matters enlisted under Schedule I of the NGT act.[6] According to Section 2 (1) (m) of the act[7], the tribunal has relevant cause to act when a person has directly violated environmental law mandates leading to a dangerous impact on the environment. Owing to its quasi-judicial nature, it is further empowered to impose laws even on administrative authorities. 

Unlike the court, it does not have to follow the lengthy CPC or Indian Evidence Act procedures, it simply adjudicates cases in accordance with Principles of Natural Justice. Moreover, it is bound to dispose of cases within the first six months of the appellant filing it, leading to a more efficient and speedy manner of delivery of justice.

Under Section 20 of the act, the tribunal is authorized to use international jurisprudence as a tool to effectively deal with Indian matters and has given numerous significant judgements in the past.  In Manoj Mishra vs. UOI[8], the court upheld that whoever polluted the Yamuna River would be liable for compensation under “polluter pays”. Moreover, in LG Polymers India vs. The State Of Andhra Pradesh,[9] the forum took suo moto cognizance as it is empowered to do so and initiated proceedings. Additionally, in the Jeet Singh Kanwar vs. Union of India,[10] the tribunal ensured that no clearance was granted to illegal projects through the precautionary principle. Furthermore, it banned the sale, purchase and use of firecrackers during the COVID pandemic. Moreover, in Vardhaman Kaushik vs. Union of India[11], among other things the tribunal banned plastic burning. 

However, these tribunal are established under the statute, thereby, restricting their authority and powers. As held in the Vellore Citizen’s Welfare Forum vs. UOI case,[12] and Rajeev Hitendra Pathal vs. Achyut Kashinath[13], the court asserted that the forum derives its power from the act, thereby obligating it to function within it. Under Schedule I, NGTs are not authorized to perform judicial review etc.[14] Therefore, even though the tribunal constitutes of learned judicial members, has passed significant decisions and provided effective relief in the past, it is still lower in the hierarchy of courts. Therefore, it is opined that having slightly more extensive powers would help NGTs reach innovative and effective solutions, lessening the burden on the Indian judiciary with respect to environmental law matters. 


[1] Indian Constitution, 1950, Articles 51 (g) and 48A. 

[2] National Green Tribunals, 2010, No. 19 Acts of Parliament. 

[3] M.C Mehta vs. Union of India, AIR 1987 965.

[4] 186th Report of the Law Commission of India, 2003. 

[5] Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1991 SC 420.

[6] National Green Tribunals, 2010, No. 19 Acts of Parliament, Schedule I.

[7] National Green Tribunals, 2010, No. 19 Acts of Parliament, Section 2 (1) (m). 

[8] Manoj Mishra vs. Union of India and Ors, 2021 Original Application No. 06/2012.

[9] M/S. Lg Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. vs. The State Of Andhra Pradesh, CIVIL APPEAL NOS.1770-1773 OF 2021.

[10] Jeet Singh Kanwar vs. Union of India, 2013.

[11] Vardhaman Kaushik vs. Union of India, 2017 0109 GT. 

[12] Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum vs. Union of India, AIR 1996 SC 2715.

[13] Rajeev Hitendra Pathal vs. Achyut Kashinath,2011 9 SCC 541.

[14] National Green Tribunals, 2010, No. 19 Acts of Parliament, Schedule I.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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