National Green Tribunal Act

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The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
National Green Tribunal Act
An Act to provide for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Citation Act No. 19 of 2010
Enacted by Parliament of India
Date enacted 5 May 2010[1]
Date assented to 2 June 2010
Legislative history
Bill published on 31 July 2009[1]
Committee report 24 November 2009[1]
Status: In force

National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (NGT)[2] is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.[3] It draws inspiration from the India's constitutional provision of Article 21, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.

Definition[edit]

The legislate Act of Parliament defines the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 as follows,

"An Act to provide for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto".[4]

On 18 October 2010, Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta[5] became its first Chairman. Currently it is chaired by Justice Swatanter Kumar[6][7] since 20 Dec 2012.[8]

The Tribunal's dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice. The tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.Initially, the NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible; New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other 4 place of sitting of the Tribunal.[9]

Origin[edit]

During the Rio de Janeiro summit of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992, India vowed the participating states to provide judicial and administrative remedies for the victims of the pollutants and other environmental damage.

There lie many reasons behind the setting up of this tribunal. After India's move with Carbon credits, such tribunal may play a vital role in ensuring the control of emissions and maintaining the desired levels. This is the first body of its kind that is required by its parent statute to apply the "polluter pays" principle and the principle of sustainable development.

This court can rightly be called ‘special’ because India is the third country following Australia and New Zealand to have such a system.<http://www.wwfindia.org/about_wwf/enablers/cel/national_green_tribunal/>

Members[edit]

The tribunal shall consist of a full time chairperson, judicial members and expert members. The minimum number of judicial and expert member prescribed is ten in each category and maximum number is twenty in each category. Another important provision included in the law is that the chairperson, if find necessary, may invite any person or more person having specialized knowledge and experience in a particular case before the tribunal to assist the same in that case.

A judge of the Supreme Court of India or Chief Justice of High Court are eligible to be Chairperson or judicial member of the Tribunal. Even existing or retired judge of High Court is qualified to be appointed as a Judicial Member.[4]

A person is qualified to be an expert member if he has Master of Science with a Doctorate degree or Master of Engineering or Master of Technology and has an experience of fifteen years in the relevant field including five years practical experiences in the field of environment and forests in a reputed National level institutions. Anyone who has administrative experience of fifteen years including experience of five years in dealing with environment matters in the Central Government or a State Government or in National or State level institution is also eligible to be an expert member.[10]

Jurisdiction[edit]

The Tribunal has Original Jurisdiction on matters of "substantial question relating to environment" (i.e. a community at large is affected, damage to public health at broader level) & "damage to environment due to specific activity" (such as pollution). However, there is no specific method defined in Law for determining "substantial" damage to environment, property or public health. There is restricted access to an individual only if damage to environment is substantial. The powers of tribunal related to an award are equivalent to Civil court and tribunal may transmit any order/award to civil court have local jurisdiction, however, the tribunal does not follow civil law. it follows principles of natural justice. The Bill specifies that an application for dispute related to environment can be filled within six months only when first time dispute arose (provide tribunal can accept application after 60 days if it is satisfied that appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filling the application).

Also Tribunal is competent to hear cases for several acts such as Forest (Conservation) Act, Biological Diversity Act, Environment (Protection) Act, Water & Air (Prevention & control of Pollution) Acts etc. and also have appellate jurisdiction related to above acts after establishment of Tribunal within a period of 30 days of award or order received by aggrieved party. The Bill says that decision taken by majority of members shall be binding and every order of Tribunal shall be final. Any person aggrieved by an award, decision, or order of the Tribunal may appeal to the Supreme Court within 90 days of commencement of award but Supreme Court can entertain appeal even after 90 days if appellant satisfied SC by giving sufficient reasons.

A division bench of the Madras high court comprising Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice P Devadass on February 2014 held that high courts did have jurisdiction to entertain appeals against the orders of the NGT as in Section 29 of the NGT Act 2010, which deals with bar of jurisdiction of civil courts the jurisdiction of the high court under Article 226/227 is not ousted.

Notable orders[edit]

Yamuna Conservation Zone[edit]

On 25 April 2014, the NGT said that the health of Yamuna will be affected by the proposed recreational facilities on the river. The NGT also recommended the Government to declare a 52 km stretch of the Yamuna in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as a conservation zone.[11]

Coal Blocks in Chhattisgarh Forests[edit]

The National Green Tribunal has cancelled the clearance given by the then Union Environment and Forests Minister, Jairam Ramesh, to the Parsa East and Kante-Basan captive coal blocks in the Hasdeo-Arand forests of Chhattisgarh, overruling the statutory Forest Advisory Committee.

The forest clearance was given by Mr. Ramesh in June 2011, overriding the advice of the Ministry's expert panel on the two blocks for mining by a joint venture between Adani and Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited. The blocks requiring 1,989 hectares of forestland fell in an area that the government had initially barred as it was considered a patch of valuable forest and demarcated as a ‘no-go’ area.

The order is bound to have a more far-reaching impact, with the tribunal holding that "mere expression of fanciful reasons relating to environmental concerns without any basis, scientific study or past experience would not render the advice of FAC — a body of experts — inconsequential. Under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the FAC is required to appraise projects that require forestlands and advise the Environment Ministry to grant approval or reject the proposals.[citation needed]

But in this case, the NGT noted, the Minister had taken all of one day and relied upon his "understanding and belief" without any "basis either in any authoritative study or experience in the relevant fields." The Minister, while clearing the coal blocks, had given six reasons for doing so, including that the coal blocks are linked to super-critical thermal power plant, which is imperative to sustain the momentum generated in the XI Plan for increasing power production. These ‘anthropocentric’ considerations, the NGT held, were not valid to evaluate the project.

References[edit]

External links[edit]