Context: October 18 was a significant day, as it marked the 10th anniversary of the National Green Tribunal, or NGT.
- The National Green Tribunal was established in 2010 as per the National Green Tribunal Act,2010.
- It is a specialized judicial body equipped with expertise solely for the purpose of adjudicating environmental cases in the country.
- The Tribunal is tasked with providing effective and expeditious remedy in cases relating to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources and enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment.
- Additionally, the Tribunal is not bound by procedure under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and is guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s orders are binding and it has the power to grant relief in the form of compensation and damages to affected persons.
- The statutes in Schedule I are:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- 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).
Stages in an evolution of NGT
- Parliament had passed laws related to the establishment of a National Environment Tribunal (1995) and a National Environment Appellate Authority (1997).
- SC judgments:In M.C. Mehta & Anr. Etc vs Union Of India & Ors. Etc (1986), SC had suggested “to the Government of India that
- Cases involving issues of environmental pollution, ecological destructions and conflicts over national resources are increasingly coming up for adjudication.
- These cases involve assessment and evolution of scientific and technical data.
- So it might be desirable to set up Environmental Courts on the regional basis with one professional Judge and two experts drawn from the Ecological Sciences Research Group keeping in view the nature of the case and the expertise required for its adjudication..
- In A.P. Pollution Control Board vs Prof. M.V. Nayudu (Retd.) SC added its own emphasis on the need for a court that was “a combination of a Judge and Technical Experts” with an appeal to the Supreme Court from the Environmental Court.
Opposition to NGT:
- Tribunalisation: NGT was opposed on the grounds that it would contribute to the trend of ‘tribunalisation’.
- But in R Gandhi Judgment 2010 SC held that: Creation of Tribunal and vesting in them, the powers and jurisdiction exercised by the High Court in regard to company law matters, were not unconstitutional.
Performance of NGT:
The NGT has created a new breed of legal practitioners,
- protected vast acres of forest land,
- halted polluting construction activities in metros and smaller towns.
- It has penalised errant officials who have turned a blind eye towards enforcing the laws, and held large corporate entities to account.
- It has protected the rights of tribal communities and ensured the enforcement of the “polluter pays” principle in letter and spirit.
- Dilution of criteria: The Central Government attempted to dilute the criteria for appointments to the NGT and other tribunals. The rules were ultimately suspended by the Supreme Court.
- Key challenges:
- the NGT must focus less on governance issues and more on adjudication.
- Benches have to expand manifold.
- Vacancies have to be filled quickly.
In its next decade, the NGT must continue to remain a proactive ‘inconvenience’ to all those who, while pontificating grandiloquently on the need for environmental protection, take actions that make economic growth ecologically unsustainable.
Image source: Indiatvnews
After reading this article, answer the following question for Mains answer writing practice. Also you can get your answer checked free of cost by clicking on the following link.
Q) Critically analyse the performance of the National Green Tribunal in safeguarding environmental rights. (150 words)