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Origin Of National Green Tribunal

In United Nations Conference on Environment and Development[1], India vowed to supply judicial and administrative remedies for the victims of the pollutants and other environmental damage.[2]

The Government of India within the year 2010 enacted National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act which enabled the creation of a special tribunal which might handle the cases concerning environmental issues. This Act drew its inspiration from Article 21 of the Constitution of India which assures the citizens of India a right to wash and healthy environment.[3] After the enactment of this Act[4], India became third country within the world after Australia and New Zealand which now features a special fast-track quasi-judicial body which deals with environment related cases.

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

“An Act to supply for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases concerning environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any right concerning environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.[5]

There are various instances wherein the Supreme Court of India reiterated the necessity of an Environmental Court. The Supreme Court in M. C. Mehta v. Union of India[6] observed that an “Environment Court” must be established for fast disposal of environmental cases. As a sequel thereto the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 and National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997 were gone by the Indian Parliament. Further it are often said that this act was also a response to implement the apex court’s pronouncement that the proper to healthy environment may be a part of the proper to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Structure

Following the enactment of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, the Principal Bench of the NGT has been established within the capital – New Delhi , with regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench). Each Bench features a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States during a region. There’s also a mechanism for circuit benches. For instance , the Southern Zone bench, which is predicated in Chennai, can plan to have sittings in other places like Bangalore or Hyderabad. Click here for a replica of the notification specifying jurisdiction of every bench. Provided below may be a link to all or any NGT zonal benches, addresses & contact details.

The Chairperson of the NGT may be a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Head Quartered in Delhi. Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of a minimum of one Judicial Member and one Expert Member. Expert members should have knowledgeable qualification and a minimum of 15 years experience within the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.


Powers


The NGT has the facility to listen to all civil cases concerning environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:

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 insurance Act, 1991;
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
This means that any violations pertaining only to those laws, or any order / decision taken by the government under these laws are often challenged before the NGT. Importantly, the NGT has not been vested with powers to listen to any matter concerning the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States concerning forests, tree preservation etc. Therefore, specific and substantial issues associated with these laws can’t be raised before the NGT.

Important Role Played by NGT to Protect Environment in 2019

Aryavart Foundation Versus Vapi Green Enviro Ltd. &Ors.[7]

In this case NGT held that, “performance audit must be done of all the Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees in the country and to identify remedial steps required in manning and functioning of SPCBs and PCCs or otherwise.”

Compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules-2016,[8]

In this case NGT held that, “To ensure compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, the Tribunal passed a comprehensive order summoning chief secretaries of all states and union territories to personally appear and update the status of identification and development of Model Cities and Towns in the state in the first phase and be replicated later for other cities and towns of the state. Apart from forming oversight committees comprising of former High Court judges for each state, every state and union territory is directed to constitute a Special Task Force in every District of 3 members one each nominated by District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police, Regional Officer of the State Pollution Control Boards in concerned Districts and one person to be nominated by the Chairman of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) for awareness about the SWM Rules, 2016 by involving educational, religious and social organizations including local Eco-clubs.”

Threat to life arising out of coal mining in south Garo Hills district Versus State of Meghalaya& Ors.[9]

In this case NGT held that, “Mining activity has been going on for a long time in unplanned and unscientific manner resulting in huge ecological disturbance and negative impact on the environment.”

I switch  my words with the quotes of Henry David Thoreau, “It appears to be a law that you cannot have a deep sympathy with both man and nature.”


[1] 1992, Rio de Janeiro

[2] Ibid

[3] Constitution of India, Article  21

[4] National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

[5] The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (Number 19 of 2010).

[6] M.C. Mehta v Union of India, 1987 SCR (1) 819

[7] O.A.No. 95/2018

[8]  O.A. No. 606/2018

[9] O.A. No. 110(THC)/2012

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