This article is written by Janvi Johar, 2nd year student pursuing B.A.LLB (H) from Amity University, Noida.
Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have become a meddling entity. From time to time, man has altered and brought changes to the natural habitat for his convenience. This has not only resulted in damage to the environment but has even threatened the survival of humans and other species.
Taking India as an example, one can see that The Constitution of India mentions in the Directive Principles of State Policy that “it is the duty of the state to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country and bestow upon the citizens the duty to protect the environment”. During the initial years of Independence, the implementation of DPSPs was difficult as the government overlooked the environment and focused on other problems such as industrialization, unemployment, poverty, etc, and its where the National Green Tribunal comes.
The need to set up special environmental courts was highlighted by the Supreme Court of India in a series of judgments, the first one being in 1986 in the Oleum Gas Leak case, and by the Law Commission of India in its 186th report in 2003. The Parliament passed the National Environmental Tribunal Act, 1995 but it was never implemented. Subsequently, the National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997 was enacted under which the National Environment Appellate Authority was set up. Limited mandate and key vacancies that the government did not fill were some of the problems faced by the government in its functioning
The degradation of the environment was alarming and this forced the government to not only tackle the current issues but think about the future as well. National Green Tribunal was thus, enacted in 2010 for handling environmental related issues and cases. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is an inspiration behind the enactment of this tribunal as it guarantees the right to clean and healthy environment to every citizen of India.
WHAT IS NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL
The National Green Tribunal was established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 on 18th October 2010. The main objective of this tribunal was the effective and speedy disposal of cases related to environmental conservation and protection of forest and other natural resources.
NGT is bound by the principle of natural justice which includes sustainable development, polluter pays principle, precautionary principle, etc. and not under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 or Indian Evidence Act 1872.
NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT 2010
The Indian Judiciary is already burdened with a backlog of cases. NGT was thus created to facilitate judicial administration. National Green Tribunal Act 2010 has both long term and short term goals. Protection of the environment was its long term goal with a resolution of disputes in a speedy and effective manner as its short term goal. India is on the 3rd position after New Zealand and Australia to adopt a Green Legislation. ‘Lokeshwar Singh Panta’ became the first chairman of NGT.
The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:
1.The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
2.The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
3.The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
4.The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
5.The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
6.The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
7.The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
STRUCTURE AND COMPOSITION
A retired Judge of the Supreme Court is selected as the Chairperson and the Other Judicial members include retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT comprises of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member. Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.
The decision of the NGT is binding on the parties unless they approach the Supreme Court in appeal and the NGT’s order is either stayed or reversed. Failure to comply with the orders of the Tribunal could lead to a fine or imprisonment of the person responsible. In the case of a deadlock, the power to decide remains with the chairperson.
- The tribunal shall consist of the following people:
- A full-time Chairperson;
- At least 10 members and not more than 20 members consisting of full-time Judicial officials as notified by the Central Government from time to time;
- At least 10 members and not more than 20 members consisting of Experts as notified by the Central Government from time to time.
- The Chairperson may, anytime, invite anyone who has specialized knowledge and their experience regarding environmental issues filed before the Tribunal for the purpose of assistance.
- By notification, the Central Government can anytime specify the sitting place of the Tribunal and the territorial jurisdiction falling under all the places.
- The Central Government can make rules regarding the procedures and practices followed by the Tribunal in consultation with the Chairperson, which includes the following:
- The rules regarding the persons who shall be entitled to appear before the Tribunal;
- The rules regarding the procedure by which the Tribunal hears applications and appeals and any other matter related to such applications or appeals.
- The rules regarding the number of members who can hear the appeals and applications – with respect to their class or classes. The number of experts hearing an appeal or application should be equal to the number of Judicial members hearing the same appeal or application.
- The rules related to the shifting of a case from one place to another by the Chairperson.
I strongly believe that National Green Tribunal is a drastic step forward to achieve effective and speedy disposal of cases along with the prioritization of environmental problems with their preservation and conservation.
However, one should not forget that a ‘wholesome approach’ should be adopted that not focuses on the social and cultural dimension of the case but analysis the consequences of the decision before pronouncing it. The remedy or compensation should be persuasive and not punitive.
This article is edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.