This article on the Role of National Green Tribunal in Judiciary is written by Harchand Coudhary, from Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, New Law College, Pune.
The Constitution of India through its Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) mentions that “it is the duty of the state to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country and bestow upon the citizens, the duty to protect the environment”. In reality, the implementation of DPSPs immediately after independence was a difficult task for the government as there were many other problems that were given priority over the environment. To overcome the basic problems of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and to provide basic health care facilities, environment issues were not given that much importance. In order to increase the production in the economy more and more, industries were set up. This has led to degradation of the environment on a large scale in India and the priority in the last decade had gradually shifted to the protection of the environment.
Origin of the idea of establishing environmental courts in India
As a result of this dire need for speedy justice, The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was founded on 18th October 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. It is a statutory tribunal which was enacted by the parliament especially for hearing the matters concerning to environmental issues. It was a result of the long procedure and the demand for such tribunal started long back in the year 1984 after the Bhopal gas tragedy. Then the Supreme Court specifically mentioned the need for such tribunals in the case where the gas leaked from Shri Ram food and fertilizers limited in Delhi. The Supreme Court then in a number of cases highlighted the difficulty faced by judges in adjudicating on complex environmental cases and laid emphasis on the need to set up a specialized environmental court. It became functional only because of repeated directions of the Supreme Court while hearing the Special Leave Petition titled the Union of India v. Vimal Bhai1.
Powers of NGT
The Legislate Act of Parliament defines the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 as “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”
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 NGT has been given the power to regulate the procedure by itself. It does not follow the principles of civil procedure code instead it follows principles of natural justice. The NGT also at the time of giving orders shall apply the principals of sustainable development and also the principal that the one who pollutes shall pay. It will have the same power as of the civil court in deciding the matter falling within this seven legal acts. The major benefit with NGT is that it has a strong order enforcing mechanism. If the orders of NGT do not comply with then it has the power to impose both punishments as well as the fine. The punishment is up to three years and the penalty is up to ten crores and for firms it can extend up to twenty-five crores. Also, the director or manager of the firm can be punished or penalized if it is found by the tribunal that the offense has been committed on the orders or with the consent of such officer of the firm.
The act also provides various kinds of reliefs to the persons who are affected by the degradation of the environment as the inhabitant of that particular area. One of the provisions of the act is to provide compensation to the victims of any loss occurring from accident or leakage while handling hazardous substance. So this provision basically will deal with any loss which occurs due to leakage of some hazardous gas in a locality. This was necessary because the earlier law was silent in this regard due to which the people who suffered damages in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy could not get proper compensation from the union carbide.
The Yamuna floodplain case
Recently in March 2015, NGT imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore on Art of Living Foundation because it has organized World Cultural Festival on Yamuna floodplain and affected the environment.
Yamuna Conservation Zone
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.
Coal Blocks in Chhattisgarh Forests
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.
Ban on decade old Diesel vehicles at Delhi NCR
An attempt to minimize air pollution at the capital of India and NCR PM 2.5 particles have reached alarming level. As per this order, 10 yrs, old vehicles are not allowed to ply.
1 SLP (civil) No(s).12065/2009
2 Section 18(2), National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
3 Citizens welfare forum v. union of India (1996) 5 SCC 647