National Green Tribunal

Introduction

National Green Tribunal has been established on 18/10/2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and matters there with or incidental thereto. It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multidisciplinary issues. Even the gaming industry is taking care of environment in developing new casino software and games available to be played online without players traveling to the nearest land based casino. The tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the code of civil procedure 1908. But shall be guided by principles of natural justice.

The tribunal dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. The tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.

Initially the NGT is proposed to be setup at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible.  New Delhi is the principle place of sittings of the tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four places of sittings of the tribunal.

Currently, many companies are interested in becoming environmental friendly, even some gaming industries started making effort on doing what is best for environment. There are several ecofriendly land based casinos around the world that get power via solar energy and have other recycling programs. In fact, the online casino industry has an even more ecofriendly approach than the land based ones, because with the online one, it won’t be necessary to build huge casino venues, and players can play at home, with no need to going the land based casino ones by car.

With the establishment of the NGT, India became the third country in the world to set up a specialized environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand and the first developing country to do so.

NGT is mandatory to make disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing the same.

Structure of NGT

  • The tribunal comprises of the chairperson, the judicial members and expert members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
  • The chairperson is appointed by the central government in consultation with the chief justice of India.
  • A selection committee shall be formed by central government to appoint the judicial members and expert members.
  • There are to be least 10 and maximum 20 full time judicial members and expert members in the tribunal.

Powers and jurisdiction

  • The Tribunal has jurisdiction overall civil cases involving substantial question relating to environment ( including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment )
  • Being a statutory adjudicatory body like courts, apart from original jurisdiction side on filing of an application, NGT also has appellate jurisdiction to hear appeal as a court ( Tribunal )
  • The tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the code of civil procedure 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • While passing any order/decision/award, it shall apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle.
  • NGT by an order, can provide
  • Relief and compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage ( including accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance )
  • For restitution of property damaged and
  • For restitution of the environment for such area or areas as the tribunal may think fit
  • An order/decision/award of tribunal is executable as a decree of a civil court.
  • The NGT Act also provides a procedure for a penalty for non compliance
    • Improvement for a term which may extend to three years.
    • Fine which may extend to ten crore rupees
    • Both fine and imprisonment
  • An appeal against order/decision/award of the NGT lies to the Supreme Court, generally within 90 days from the date of communication.
  • The NGT deals with civil cases under the seven laws related to the environment, these includes;
  • The water ( Prevention and Control of Pollution ) Act, 1974
  • The water ( prevention and control of Pollution) cess Act, 1977
  • The Forest ( conservation) Act, 1980
  • The Air ( prevention and control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Environment ( protection) Act, 1986
  • The public liability insurance Act, 1991 and
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
  • Any violation pertaining to these laws or any decision taken by the government under these laws can be challenged before NGT

Strengths of NGT

  • Over the years NGT has emerged as a critical player in environmental regulation, passing strict orders on issues ranging from pollution to deforestation to waste management.
  • NGT offers a path for the evolution of environmental jurisprudence by setting up an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
  • It helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts on environmental matters.
  • NGT is less formal, less expensive and a faster way of resolving environment related disputes.
  • It plays a crucial role in curbing environment damaging activities.
  • The chairperson and members are not eligible for reappointment hence they are likely to deliver judgments independently, without succumbing to pressure from any quarter
  • The NGT has been instrumental in ensuring that the Environment impact Assessment process is strictly observed.

Challenges

  • Two important Acts Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGTs jurisdiction. This restricts the jurisdiction of NGT and all times hampers its functioning as crucial forest rights issue is linked directly to environment.
  • The NGT decisions are being challenged in various High courts under Art.226 with many asserting the superiority of High court over the NGT, claiming High court is a constitutional body while NGT is a statutory body. There is one of the weakness of the Act as there is lack of clarity about what kind of decisions can be challenged before Supreme Court.
  • Decisions of NGT have also been criticized and challenged due to their repercussions on economic growth and development.
  • The absence of a formula based mechanism in determining the compensation has also brought criticism to the tribunal.
  • The decisions of NGT are not fully complied by the stakeholders on the government. Sometimes its decisions are pointed out not to be feasible to implement within a given framework.
  • The lack of human and financial resources has led to high pendency of cases which undermines NGTs very objective of disposal of appeals within 6 months.
  • The justice delivery mechanism is also hindered by limited number of Regional benches.

Conclusion

There is need for more autonomy and widen NGTs scope for effective protection of Environment in balance with human developmental activities.

Reference

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