NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL: COMPOSITION, JURISDICTION, POWERS AND PROCEDURES
NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT (2010)
The National Green Tribunal Act was passed in 2010 to enable the creation of a specialized body to deal with environmental issues including protection or enforcement of legal rights relating to the environment. This act also deals with providing compensation for damages to persons and property and any such matters relating therein
NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL (NGT)
The National Green Tribunal is a specialized body which was set up on the 18th October 2010 for effective dealings of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of natural resources. It was set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010). The headquarters of the NGT is based in New Delhi. The four branches of NGT are located in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata and Chennai.
India becomes the third country after Australia and New Zealand to set up a specialized body to deal with environmental cases. The tribute has a mandate to dispose off applications and petitions within six months of filing. The very first chairperson of NGT was Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta, followed by Justice Swatanter Kumar and now the current chairperson is Justice Adarsh Goel.
COMPOSITION OF NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL (NGT)
- The chairperson of the National Green Tribunal is a retired judge of the Supreme Court
- The other judicial members are mostly the retired judges of the High Courts.
- Every NGT bench will consist of a judicial member and an expert who has a professional qualification and at least 15 years of experience in the field of environmental or forest related subjects.
- There should be a maximum of 20 full time Judicial as well as expert members.
- The tenure of these members is not more than five years and they cannot be re-elected.
POWERS AND JURISDICTION OF NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL (NGT)
- If any person performs an act which is non compliant with the decision taken by the NGT, that individual can be fined upto 10 crores and can also be imprisoned upto three years or both.
- The NGT deals with several cases under Section 1 of the NGT Act, 2010:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act 1984.
- The Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Cess Act, 1977.
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
- The Air (Prevention of pollution) Act, 1981.
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- The Public Liability and Insurance Act, 1991.
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- 3.Any kind of environmental violation due to any decision taken by the government can be challenged before the National Green Tribunal.
- The NGT shall apply the principle of sustainable development, precautionary principle and polluters pay principle while passing orders.
- The NGT, under section 22, has the power to review it’s own decision and if that fails the order can be challenged in the Supreme Court within ninety days.
- The NGT is a statutory body and thus has both original as well as appellate jurisdiction.
- The Tribunal is guided by ‘natural justice’ and does not need to follow the civil procedure code.
PROCEDURES FOLLOWED IN NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL (NGT)
The procedure followed in the NGT is-
The tribunal identifies the important matters under Section 1 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 and identifies the necessary parties. It requires them to respond by email as it is simple and time saving. The tribunal also accepts letter petition regarding matters which cause substantial damage to the environment. The tribunal also accepts a valid complaint even in the absence of an advocate. It further directs the respective authorities and statutory bodies to submit a factual and action taken report and to investigate the case. An order is also passed to the concerned authority to take necessary steps to reduce pollution, to start prosecution and to recover compensation. Upon the adjudication of claims by the tribunal, selected members can be appointed to ensure timely execution of orders when deemed as necessary.
A claim for compensation can be made on-
- Restitution of property which was damaged.
- Relief or compensation for the victims of the environmental damages and accidents which include accidents caused by hazardous substances.
- Restitution of environment in those areas which are deemed fit by the tribunal.
CASES HANDLED BY THE NGT
Some of the major cases handled by the NGT are as follows-
- In the case of Almitra H Patel & Others vs the Union of India & Others in 2012 a petition was filed regarding the methods used by the municipality to treat solid waste in India. The tribunal in this case, issued over 25 directions for this case. The tribunal passed a direction of banning open burning of waste on land or landfills. It also directed every state and union territory to enforce a solid waste management rules and prepare an action plan within 4 weeks. There was also a direction issued for mandatory segregation of waste in energy plants and the landfills are subjected to bio-stabilization within 6 months. This was regarded as the biggest landmark case.
- In 2017, the NGT also put an interim ban on the use of plastics in Delhi as they were polluting and contaminating the environment.
- The NGT also, in 2015, ordered that all vehicles above 10 years old will not be permitted to ply in Delhi- NCR.
Even though the National Green Tribunal has been an effective body to bring about a change in handling the environmental cases, it is still facing problems where the decisions of the NGT is being challenged in various high courts under article 226 ( relating to issue of writ petitions in the high court )and the high courts ascertain superiority over NGT. The decisions of the NGT has also been criticized over various occasions due to their repercussions which cause hinderance in economic growth. The National Green Tribunal should be given a wider scope for deciding on environmental decisions to ensure effective protection of the environment and there should be no bias decisions on the part of the NGT or the concerned authorities.
Author: Vaishnavi Menon,
MIT WPU School of Law, 1st year