Date: 14 October, 2020
by Anmol Kaur Sidhu, UILS, Panjab University
The National Green Tribunal was set up by the Parliament under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 for the speedy disposal of cases relating to the environmental issues.
The idea draws its inspiration from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which assures the citizens the right to a healthy environment. The tribunal solely deals with cases relating to Environment law only.
The tribunal is not bound to follow the procedure laid down under CPC,1908 but it shall operate on the principles of natural justice. The main bench of NGT is in New Delhi but it has regional benches in Pune, Kolkata, Bhopal, and Chennai.
The Chairperson of the tribunal is a retired judge of the Supreme Court. The NGT is required to dispose of cases within six months of filing the same.
The Tribunal comprises the Chairperson, the Judicial Members, and Expert Members. They shall hold office for a 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 (CJI).
A Selection Committee shall be formed by the central government to appoint the Judicial Members and Expert Members.
There are to be at least ten and a maximum twenty full-time Judicial members and Expert Members in the tribunal.
The main objectives of the tribunal are as under:
To provide the speedy disposal of cases relating to environmental law.
To conserve the forest and the other natural resources.
To provide relief and compensation for damaging the environment.
POWERS & JURISDICTION
It has jurisdiction over matters relating to environmental law.
It also has Appellate jurisdiction i.e. the jurisdiction to hear appeals apart from the original jurisdiction
It is not bound to follow the procedure mentioned under CPC,1908 but it shall follow the principles of natural justice.
It should apply the principles of sustainable development while giving any orders/decree or award.
Any decision/decree/award given by the tribunal is executable as a decree of the civil court.
The NGT can provide imprisonment for a term that can extend up to 3 years or a fine which may extend up to ten crore rupees or both as a penalty in case of non-compliance.
Though NGT has played a crucial role in the conservation of the environment it has not been able to completely tackle the problem as the two most 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 NGT’s jurisdiction which restricts its scope and functioning.
Its decisions have been criticized time and again due to its impact on economic growth.
The decisions by the NGT are being challenged in the HC’s under Article 226 as there is a lack of clarity as to which cases should be challenged.
It has only 5 benches which also places a constraint on its justice delivery mechanism.
LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS BY NGT
Almitra H. Patel vs. Union of India (1998) 2 SCC 416: In this case, the NGT completely prohibited the open burning of the waste on lands. It is considered as one of the biggest landmark judgments in the field of management of solid waste in India.
In the Uttarakhand flood case, 2013 the Alaknanda Hydro Power Co. Ltd. was ordered by the NGT to pay Rs. 9.26 crore to the petitioner following the principle of “polluter pays.”
In 2015 a decision was given by NGT prohibiting all diesel vehicles over 10 years old in the Delhi-NCR.
Art of Living Festival on Yamuna Flood Plain in 2017 was found violating the environmental law and therefore a penalty of Rs. 5 crores was imposed on them.
In 2017, NGT also banned plastic bags of less than 50-micron thickness in Delhi as they were harming animals and the environment.
The Supreme Court has a supervisory role in order to make sure that the judges of the tribunals are not in conflict with the provisions of the constitution.
As a matter of fact the NGT may not be a remedy for all the environmental problems but it will surely work in a manner to give the best possible solutions to the environmental issues faced by the country.
The NGT has already passed various landmark judgements in the untouched matters. But it still needs to be seen whether it will continue to remain its mandate or not.
It is the need of the hour that the country has better enforcement of the existing laws rather than framing of the new laws. The tribunal needs to make sure that it does not put a price tag on the environment in the form of compensation.