National Green Tribunal Act 2010 – An Overview

National Green Tribunal Act 2010 – An Overview

Various enactments and legislations were made by the Indian Government in the past times for protection of environment and controlling the pollution and degradation. But the lack of proper judicial and administrative system was felt by the government. In order to overcome the problem National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 was enacted by the Indian Parliament and National Green Tribunal was constituted for imposing strict liability on person damaging the environment and on the accident caused due to hazardous substances.

Need for National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 

Right to Healthy Environment is a fundamental right under Article 21 of Indian Constitution. And, At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held at Rio de Janeiro in June, 1992, Government of India promised to establish an effective system of judicial and administrative proceedings and national laws for liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage including redressal and remedies. Keeping these in mind the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 was enacted on 2nd June, 2010.

The main objective of the Act is to establish a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases related to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources and for enforcement of legal rights related to environment and providing relief and compensation to persons who suffered damages due to pollution and accident.

The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 includes V chapters, 38 sections and III schedules.

Establishment of National Green Tribunal

Section 3 of the act empowers the Central Government to establish a tribunal known as “National Green Tribunal” by notification in the official gazette. The tribunal established by the Government can exercise the powers, authority and jurisdiction given to the tribunal under this act.

Composition of National Green Tribunal

The Tribunal consists of –

  • A Chairperson.
  • Minimum 10 and maximum 20 Judicial Members notified by the Central Government.
  • Minimum 10 and maximum 20 Expert Members notified by the Central Government.
  • The Chairperson of the Tribunal can invite any one or more person having special knowledge and experience in a particular case for assisting the Tribunal in the case, only if necessary.

Qualifications for members of tribunal 

The Chairperson of the Tribunal must be a present or retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India or Chief Justice of a High Court. The Judicial Member must be a present or retired Judge of High Court.

An Expert Member should have a degree in Master of Science with a Doctorate degree or Master of Engineering or Master of Technology and have an experience of 15 years in the relevant field including five years practical experience in the field of environment and forests in a reputed National level institution; ‘or’ have administrative experience of 15 years including experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters in the Central or a State Government or in a reputed National or State level institution.

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Appointment, Tenure for members of Tribunal 

The Chairperson, Judicial Members and Expert Members of the Tribunal are appointed by the Central Government. The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government after consultation with the Chief Justice of India. And, The Judicial Members and Expert Members of the Tribunal are appointed on the recommendations of Selection Committee.

The Chairperson, Judicial Member and Expert Member of the Tribunal can hold office for 5 years from the date of entering the office and they cannot be re-appointed.

If a person appointed as Chairperson or Judicial Member is present or retired Judge of the Supreme Court cannot hold office after attaining 70 years age. And a person who is present or retired Chief Justice of a High Court cannot hold office after attaining age of 67 years. And Expert Member cannot hold office after attaining age of 65 years.

The Chairperson, Judicial Member and Expert Member of the Tribunal can resign anytime during their tenure by writing a notice addressed to the Central Government.

Section 10 of the Act empowers Central Government to remove and suspend the members of the tribunal and lay down the procedure and grounds for removal and suspension of members.

The Chairperson, Judicial Member and Expert Member can be suspended or removed, if:-

  1. He has been adjudged an insolvent; or
  2. He has been convicted an offence involving moral turpitude; or
  3. He has become physically or mentally incapable; or
  4. He has acquired financial or other interest due to which he can be biased or prejudiced towards his functions; or
  5. He has abused his position.

The Chairperson or Judicial Member cannot be removed from his office before an inquiry made by a Judge of the Supreme Court in which the Chairperson or Judicial Member is informed about the charges against him and he can prove his innocence before the Judge giving him a opportunity of being heard.

Jurisdiction of National Green Tribunal

The Tribunal have jurisdiction over all civil cases related to environment. Tribunal has the power to hear, settle and pass order on disputes related to environment. Applicant had to make an application to the tribunal within a period of six months from date of action. In case of any reasonable or sufficient delay by the applicant the Tribunal may allow the application to filed within 60 days.

The Tribunal also have appellate jurisdiction. Any person aggrieved by –

  • any order or decision made by the appellate authority under section 28 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 or by the State Government under section 29 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  • any order or decision made by the appellate authority under section 13 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  • any order or decision made by the State Government or other authority under section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  • any order or decision made by the Appellate Authority under section 31 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  • any direction issued under section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  • any order granting environmental clearance in area in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries cannot be carried out or can be carried out but with safeguards prescribed in the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  • any order refusing to grant environmental clearance for carrying out any activity or operation or process under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  • any determination of benefit sharing or order made by the National Biodiversity Authority or a State Biodiversity Board under the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 within a period of 30 days from date of communication of order.
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If the Tribunal is satisfied that the appellant was prevented from filing the appeal within prescribed period, the appellant can be allowed to file appeal within 60 days.

A person filing an application or appeal should made the application in the format accompanying by documents and fees prescribed by the Tribunal.

An application for grant of relief or compensation or settlement of dispute may be made to the Tribunal by following—

(a) The person injured; or

(b) Owner of the damaged property; or

(c) Legal representatives of the deceased where death has resulted from the environmental damage; or

(d)Any agent authorised by person or owner of property or legal representative of the deceased; or

(e)Any aggrieved person including any representative body or organisation; or

(f) Central or State Government or Union territory Administration or a local authority or environmental authority constituted or established under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 or any such act made for protection of environment such as Central or State Pollution Control Board or a Pollution Control Committee.

The Tribunal after hearing the concerned parties, should deal as fast as possible and should take the steps to dispose any application or appeal filed within six months from the date of filing of the application or appeal.

Procedure and powers of Tribunal

The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and rules contained in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and have the power to regulate its own procedure based principles of natural justice.

The Tribunal have the same powers as a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 , for discharging its functions and while trying a suit in following matters, namely:—

(a) Summoning and enforcing attendance and examining any person on oath.

(b) Discovering and producing documents;

(c) Receiving evidence on affidavits;

(d) Requisitioning any public record or document or copy of record or document from any office with respect to sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

(e) Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;

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(f) Reviewing decision;

(g) Dismissing an application or deciding it ex parte;

(h) Setting aside order of dismissal of any application or any order passed by it ex parte.

(i) Passing an interim order, granting an injunction or stay after hearing the concerned parties.

(j) Passing an order to cease and desist any person from committing or causing violation of any enactment specified in Schedule I of the Act.

The principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and “the polluter pays principle” should be applied by the Tribunal while passing an order, decision or award.

The decision should be taken by majority of members of Tribunal. The Chairperson should hear and decide the application, In case of difference of opinion or equally divided opinion among the members of tribunal. In case if the Chairperson has already heard the application or appeal and still there is difference of opinion or equally divided opinion then he have the power to refer the matter to other members of the Tribunal to hear and decide such application or appeal. Any person aggrieved by any award, decision or order of the Tribunal can file an appeal to the Supreme Court within 90 days from the date of passing of the award, decision or order.

Various limitations to the compensation have been mentioned in Section 24 of the Act, which are as follows:

  1. Application for the relief should be made within 5 years.
  2. Under schedule II of the Act Compensation is paid under following:-
  • Death or temporary disability of a person
  • Inclusion of loss of wages and medical expenses
  • When damage is caused to private or personal property.
  • Inclusion of the expenses incurred by the government in providing relief to the party affected.
  • Loss of business or employment.
  • Claims due to activities dealing with hazardous substances.

Penalty for failure to comply with the awards or decisions of a tribunal

  • In case if any person fails to comply with the decision or order passed by the tribunal, punishment with an imprisonment up to 3 years or fine up to Rs. 10,00,00,000/- or with both imprisonment and fine can be given to the person. Amount of Rs. 20,000 will be charged per day by the person in case of contravention.
  • If a company fails to comply with the award or decision of the Tribunal, then such company can be fined up to Rs. 25,00,00,000/- and in case of contravention additional fine of Rs. 1,00,000/- per day can be charged.
  • If a government department fails to comply with the order or decision passed by the Tribunal, the Head of the Department is deemed guilty and liable to be proceeded for committing an offence and punishment under the Act. He cannot be held liable of an offence, If he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of offence.

Author: Vikramjit Singh,
Panjab University SSG Regional Centre, Hoshiarpur

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