NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL
- The NGT has been established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
- It draws inspiration from India’s constitutional provision of Article 21, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
- It aims for 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 the environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- It has Original Jurisdiction on matters of “substantial question relating to environment” and & “damage to the environment due to specific activity” (such as pollution).
- It follows principles of Natural Justice.
HOW NGT IS DIFFERENT FROM JUDICIARY
- The NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Thus, it will be relatively easier for conservation groups to present facts and issues before the NGT, including pointing out technical flaws in a project, or proposing alternatives that could minimize environmental damage but which have not been considered.
- While passing Orders/decisions/awards, the NGT will apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principles.
PERFORMANCE OF NGT SO FAR
- NGT as an institution has kept itself immune from the political pressure. Some of its decision like banning old diesel cars without bothering political pressure is praiseworthy.
- Quick disposal of cases is an achievement of NGT. Indian judicial system is characterised by delays and deadlocks. NGT proved itself more efficient and effective grievance redressal body.
- NGT did not compromise with environmental degradation and take strong actions. Eg: imposing fine on art of living for degrading ecology of Yamuna basin.
- NGT has expert from environment field, unlike our judiciary system. one of the criticism of Indian judiciary is its judges have limited knowledge in different field and lack of interest in updating their knowledge.
- By cancellation of Coal blocks allocation in Chhattisgarh forests, imposing fine on burning waste in open and highlighting Bellandur lake pollution, NGT touched the environmental issues that affected the common people.
- Many judgments like Posco case judgment for sustainable development in favour of local communities, Goa foundation case for implementation of western Ghat expert panel report, sand mining order banning all forms of Illegal River and Ocean bed sand mining which were rampant across the country have beenbedrock judgements in sustainable development and environmental protection.
- NGT ordered to set up panel to monitor Sundarbansfor violation of Coastal Regulation Zone.
ISSUES WITH NGT
- It has faced criticism over judicial activism without taking into considerations the economic impact of its decisions.
- People from other parts of the country are not able to easily access it.
- The members of NGT are chosen from among serving/retired judges and bureaucrats. This has reduced it to being a parking lot for retired judges and bureaucrats, which does not augur well.
- The Act doesn’t provide jurisdiction to Tribunal over all laws related to environment such as Wildlife Protection Act (1972), Indian Forest Act 1927, Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights Act) 2005 and various other state legislations.
- Despite various proactive support being taken by the tribunal the pollution levels have been continuously rising over the years. This is due to lack of effective support from government both at the centre as well in states.
- Inefficiency of Central and State pollution control boards is another reason for it. This often results in delays in implementing the tribunal’s decision.
- In the act there is a provision for appeal to tribunal within a period of 6 month of origin of cause of environmental problem. This is small time for reflection of negative impacts of environmental changes.
- By providing functional autonomy like UPSC and RBI, maintaining transparency and bringing it under RTI and upgrading NGT from that of a tribunal to a court will go a long way in its working and efficiency. NGT has done well so far.
- India is among the few countries which have dedicated judiciary for environment protection. Lets build upon this achievement and provide a sustainable future to the nation while maintaining balance between development and environment.