The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 was introduced to address the long felt need of an alternative forum to provide inexpensive and fast justice. National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010 pursuant to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees ‘Right to Healthy Environment’ for the Indian citizen. India became the third nation after Australia and New Zealand to own such system.
The tribunal is a special fast-track body made up of judges and environment expert who will ensure expeditious disposal of cases and work for environmental protection. Over the past five to six years National Green Tribunal has decided many cases that prove to be a custodian of all resources, it deciding a matter that takes into account the concept of sustainable development, precautionary principle and polluter pays principle. It seeks to maintain a balance between environmental protection on the one hand and development of nation on the other.
Reasons for the enactment of the The National Green Tribunal Act
- In recent years, a lot of pressure has been imposed on the natural sources of the environment due to the expansion of the industries, transportation and growing urbanisation and there are pending cases related to the environment in many courts. So, that reason includes establishment of a National Green Tribunal under the Act.
- India as a member of the United Nations Conference on Natural Environment called upon to provide highly effective judicial and administrative proceedings and to redress the liabilities related to National laws for the victims in relation to environmental pollution and damage.
- The main purpose is the right to life, and a healthy environment which is granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution has been constructed in the matter of judicial proceedings.
- The National Green Tribunal is established for the strict liability that may be imposed after one indulges in environmental damages or accidents related to dangerous substances.
- Under this Act, The National Green Tribunal is set up to provide better relief and compensation with regards to the damages to individuals, property and the environment.
Powers of the The National Green Tribunal
Under section 19 of the National Green Tribunal Act, the Tribunal shall have the power that would be required to regulate its own procedure.
- Power to relieve by the aggrieved person issuing the compensation after scientifically analyzing the matter with a properly researched report.
- Issuance of the commission for witnessing the documents
- Reviewing the decision of a given case
- It has a right of dismissing the application if it is found defaulting or its decision to be ex parte.
- Granting the interim orders are considered as a power to the tribunal and it can be done after hearing both the parties.
- Power to an order concerning a person’s ceasement from further violating or infringing the enactments set in the Schedule I.
- The tribunal has the power under section 20, to pass any order or award in relation to the substantial development.
- Under section 21 of the National Green Tribunal Act, decisions taken by a majority of the tribunal members are deemed to be binding on the parties concerned.
Procedure for filing an Application or Appeal under National Green Tribunal Act
National Green Tribunal follows a very simple and systematic procedure to lodge an application seeking compensation for environmental damage or an appeal against an order or decision of the Government. English is the official language of the NGT. A fee of Rs. 1000/- is to be paid for each application / appeal where no claim for compensation is involved. In case where compensation is being claimed, the fee will be 1% of the compensation amount subject to a minimum of Rs. 1000/-.
A claim for Compensation can be made for:
- Relief/compensation for pollution victims and other environmental damage including accidents involving hazardous substances;
- Restitution of property damaged;
- Environmental restitution for such areas as defined by the National Green Tribunal.
No application for grant of any compensation or relief or restoration of property or environment shall be entertained until it is submitted within a period of five years from the date on which the purpose for such compensation or relief occurred first.
Important Landmark Judgments of The National Green Tribunal
- In 2012, POSCO a steelmaker corporation signed a MoU with the Odisha government to set up steel plant. National Green Tribunal suspended order which was considered a radical step for the benefit of the local communities and forests.
- In 2012, Almitra H. Patel vs. Union of India case, National Green Tribunal ruled there was complete prohibition on open burning of waste on lands, including landfills – deemed to be the single biggest milestone case dealing with solid waste management in India.
- In case of 2013 in Uttarakhand floods, the Alaknanda Hydro Power Co. Ltd. was ordered to compensate to the petitioner, here, the National Green Tribunal directly depended on the principle of ‘polluter pays’.
- In 2015, the National Green Tribunal directed not to permit any diesel vehicles over 10 years old to travel in Delhi-NCR.
- In 2017, the Art of Living Festival on Yamuna Food Plain was declared to be in breach the environmental norms,and the National Green Tribunal panel imposed a penalty of Rs. 5 Crore.
- In 2017, the National Green Tribunal imposed an interim ban on plastic bags with a thickness of less than 50-micron in Delhi because they were causing animal deaths, clogging sewers and damaging the environment.
- There is the shortage of proper infrastructure as it operates from two separate premises.
- The committee should have at least 10 judiciary and the expert members, of which only 2 judiciary and 4 expert members were appointed till date.
- The number of environmental cases has been increased but the body is unable to pronounce its judgment on time due to lack of benches and infrastructure.
- Despite various proactive support being taken by the tribunal, the pollution levels have been continuously rising over the years. This is because of the lack of effective government support both at the center as well in states. The inefficiency of Central and State pollution control boards is another reason for it. This often results in delays in implementing the tribunal’s decision.
- The tribunal is not having suo-moto powers which also restrict its ambit in the area of the environment.
It is justifiable that the National green tribunal is of great importance when it comes to cases in relation to board environmental problems. It is a tool for sharing and enhancing the environment with greater substances. The great need to understand about conflict includes when the matters related to water, air, land etc. has emerged on which various decisions are to be given.
However, it is an advantage that due to national green tribunals, lawyers are encouraged to specialize in environmental law and therefore tribunal is as an important aspect for providing justice in the environmental matters. A time is awaited when the medium of law pertaining to it will give our environment the most importance.
Author: Kunal Gupta,
Jagran lakecity University