National Green Tribunal Act: A Comprehensive Analysis

Indians, since time immemorial, have been known to protect and preserve nature. They even worshipped nature in one or the other form. However, our blind race for the development caused a huge loss to the environment. We use natural resources as if we own them. We did not even think of future generations. We tried to consume every natural resource. However, we did not utilize those resources, but we over-utilized them. We shifted our positions from protectors to destroyers. However, when we realized our mistakes, we started to shift our attention to protect this. For this, we made several laws and institutions which would be helpful in protecting it. Some of them are Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, etc.

Need for National Green Tribunal Act

India participated in UN Conference on Environment & Development held in Rio De Janeiro, and India pledged to provide remedies to people suffering from problems caused by environmental pollution. A need was felt for the establishment of environmental courts. The Supreme Court, in various decisions, also suggested for the same. Keeping these suggestions in view, the Government presented the National Green Tribunal Bill, 2009. It proposed for establishment of National Green Tribunal and replaced the then National Environment Tribunal. It was enacted in the year 2010 as the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. [1]

Objectives of the Act

  • Effective and speedy disposal of cases dealing with environment.
  • Enforcement of rights related to environment.
  • Providing remedy and compensation to the aggrieved party.
  • Penalties for non-compliance.
  • Deciding the mechanism of working of the Court. [2]
  • Determining jurisdiction, powers, functions of the NGT, etc.

Overview and Important Provisions of the Act

Section 2 of the Act defines some of the expressions. Clause (a) of the Section talks about the term “accident”, “hazardous members”, “injury”, “person”, “workman”, etc.

Section 4 of the Act talks about the composition of the tribunal. It says that tribunal shall consist of :

  • A full-time chairperson
  • At least 10 members and not more than 20 members consisting of full time judicial officials.
  • At least 10 members and not more than 20 members consisting of experts.

Section 5 of the Act talks of qualifications of members and Section 7 of the Act talks about terms of office.

Section 10 of the Act talks of removal and suspension of the Chairperson, Judicial members and Expert members. The Central Government in consultation with the CJI.  [3]

Jurisdiction and Powers of NGT

  • The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to the environment that are linked to the implementation of all the laws listed to schedule 1 of the Act. These are mentioned below:

    – Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
    – Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
    – Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
    – The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
    – The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

  • All the cases related to substantial questions regarding the environment.
  • The tribunal exercises original jurisdiction as well as appellate jurisdiction.
  • The tribunal is not bound by the procedure mentioned in CPC. It mainly applies the principles of natural justice.
  • The NGT can order for compensation, restitution of damaged property, restitution of environment. [4]

Functions

  1. Provides speedy trial.
  2. Mandate to dispose of environment-related issues within six months of filing complaint.
  3. Require to apply the principle of Substantial development, Polluter Pays Principle, etc.
  4. Not bound by the Indian Evidence Act. 

Who may make Applications?

Applications to the tribunal can be filed by anyone who

  • Has sustained the injury
  • Is the owner of property damaged
  • Is the legal representative of a deceased person
  • Is an agent authorized by a person affected
  • Is a person aggrieved
  • The Government or any of the Authority. [5]

System for recording an Application or Appeal

The NGT follows an extremely basic method to document an application looking for pay for ecological harm or intrigue against a request or choice of the Government. The official language of the NGT is English. Snap here for the endorsed layout for documenting an Application/Appeal before the NGT.

For each application/bid where no case for remuneration is included, an expense of Rs. 1000/ – is to be paid. If remuneration is being guaranteed, the charge will be one percent of the measure of pay subject to at least Rs. 1000/-.

Standards of Justice received by NGT

The NGT isn’t limited by the methodology set down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, yet will be guided by standards of normal equity. Further, NGT is likewise not limited by the guidelines of proof as revered in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. In this manner, it will be generally simpler (rather than moving toward a court) for protection gatherings to introduce realities and issues before the NGT, including bringing up specialized blemishes in an undertaking or proposing choices that could limit ecological harm yet which have not been thought of.

While passing Orders/choices/grants, the NGT will apply the standards of the manageable turn of events, the preparatory guideline and the polluter pay principle.

Notwithstanding, it must be noticed that if the NGT holds that a case is bogus, it can force costs, including lost advantages because of any break order.    

Audit and Appeal

Under Rule 22 of the NGT Rules, there is an arrangement for looking for a Review of a choice or Order of the NGT. If this fizzles, an NGT Order can be tested under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court inside ninety days. [6]

Critical Analysis of the Act and Key Issues

If we analyze the Act, we may associate some challenges that create hindrances in its enforcement in an effective manner. Some of these challenges are as follows:

  1. Calculation of compensation – It is one of the biggest and most disputed issues in the Act. There is no formula based calculation of compensation. There are lots of variations in the compensation amount. There is no set formula to decide compensation. It mostly depends on discretion. 
  2. Limited Branches – It may be observed that tribunal have a very limited branch of number than required. The branches are set up in very specific cities, but the cases come across the whole of India. The tribunal is overburdened. The Act did not talk about the increasing number of benches.
  3. Lack of financial resources – There is no provision as to its financial necessities. It does not have any source of income. This lack of financial resources limits the working of the Tribunal and enforcement of the Act.
  4. Limited scope – The Act is applicable in limited areas, and it does not have a wider jurisdiction that may be required for effective enforcement of Act. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and Schedule Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which directly deals with environmental issues are out of its jurisdiction.
  5. The capabilities for a specialized part are increasingly ideal for officials (particularly resigned) and to superfluous technocrats. The demonstration thinks about higher degrees in Science, Technology and Administrative experience however no arrangement for scientist, humanist, preservationist, common society or NGO, and so forth. [7]
  6. It has also been seen that various committees are delegated the responsibilities to monitor, inspect and to comply with other laws. It creates a wrong impression. [8]

Suggestions  

On analyzing the above Act, the following suggestions may be made:

  1. Suo moto purview must be a vital component of National Green Tribunal for compelling and better working. This suggestion may bring a lot of reforms in the working of the tribunal.
  2. There is a requirement for the production of an independent Environmental Protection Authority of India. It will prevent them from external pressure, which may be helpful in its working in a more effective manner.
  3. The current demonstration gives impedance by focal Government in the undertakings and inward procedures of the council which ought to maintain a strategic distance by providing the Court with an unlimited hand to choose the innate issue as procedures.  
  4. Another suggestion may be to provide better financial assistance to it. It will help them to increase awareness among people and staff for better working. A separate fund may be allotted to it.
  5. The Central and State government should work in a joint effort with NGT to protect the earth with better, quicker implementation of NGT orders.
  6. There ought to be Judicial Review of Environmental Cases.
  7. Other related laws may likewise be incorporated inside NGT’s ambit. It will help increase its jurisdiction.  

Conclusion  

Enactment of this Act is a good initiative, and it shows our seriousness towards protecting nature and understanding its value. We have even set up the required tribunal, and it has started working, but its pace is slower than required because with every passing days number of industries are increasing to several folds and hence, the disputes related cases. We need to expand the scope of working to counter the environmental problems because if we lag behind a certain level, it would be nearly impossible for the environment to reach back its original status. This may even create a danger of extinction for animals and humans.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the powers and functions of the NGT?
  2. Critically analyze the NGT Act and give some suggestions too?
  3. Summarise the NGT Act and give some important provisions?

References

[1] Rich Singh, Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University (A study on National Green Tribunal Act)

[2] Ibid 

[3] National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

[4]Prof. R.K. Singh, Environmental Law, Jaipur Publishing House

[5] S.C. Shastri, Environmental Law, Eastern Book Company

[6] https://www.conservationindia.org/resources/ngt

[7] https://lawsisto.com/artcileread/NDc4/NATIONAL-GREEN-TRIBUNAL-CRITICAL-ANALYSIS

[8] https://thewire.in/environment/nearly-a-decade-old-is-the-national-green-tribunal-losing-its-bite

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