NGT Judgments
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In this article, Gyandeep Kaushal pursuing Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata discusses 5 landmark NGT judgments that created history.

How National Green Tribunal came into force?

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution has been interpreted mean several things. One of such interpretations laid down by the court was that people do have a right to live in a healthy environment[1] right to have the enjoyment of quality of life and living[2] and right of enjoyment of pollution free water and air for full enjoyment of life.[3] Inspired from the constitutional provision under Article 21, the National Green Tribunal through the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (Act 19 of 2010) came into being. The objective of this forum was the expeditious disposal of cases relating to the conservation of forests, protection of environment and natural resources.

Benches of NGT

This Tribunal was established on October 10, 2010. The Tribunal is rather a recent creation of the Parliament. With its principal bench at New Delhi, the Tribunal has several other benches. Its Western Zone Bench is situate in Pune, Central Zone Bench in Bhopal, Eastern Bench in Kolkata while the Southern Bench is situated in Chennai. These zonal benches exercise jurisdiction over a specified geographical territory covering more than one state in any given zone. The NGT has requisite jurisdiction to hear environmental cases pertaining to a given number of enactments.

5 landmark NGT judgments that created history

Within the short span of 7 years, the Tribunal has given some landmark judgments that changed the course of environmental law and environmental protection in India.

Ms. Betty C. Alvares vs. The State of Goa and Ors. [4]

Even a Foreign National Can Approach the NGT

Facts and Issues

A complaint regarding various instances of illegal construction in the Coastal Regulation Zone of Candolim, Goa was made by a personal of foreign nationality. Her name was Betta Alvarez.

  • Before the case could be decided on merits the maintainability of the main application was challenged.
Objections

There were two objections:

  1. The first objection was that Betty Alvarez had no locus standi in the matter because she was not an Indian citizen and thus legally incompetent to file the petition under Article 21 because as a non-citizen, she has not been guaranteed any right under the Indian Constitution.
  2. The second objection was that the matter was barred by the law of limitation and should be dismissed. The case was initiated in the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay Bench at Goa in the form of a PIL but by an order dated Oct 23, 2012, the Writ Petition was transferred to the National Green Tribunal.

Judgment

  • Regarding the first and main objection by the Respondents in this matter, the Tribunal disagreed from taking a narrow view of the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • The Tribunal in bold terms stated that even assuming that the Applicant – Betty Alvarez is not a citizen of India, the Application is still maintainable as she had filed several other writ petitions and contempt applications before she filed the present application, in which she had asserted that the Respondents had raised some illegal constructions by way of which they were encroaching the sea beaches along with governmental properties.
  • Betty by her application sought the demolition of such illegal construction. When despite finding substance in the complaints of Ms. Betty Alvarez the concerned authorities did not take the requisite action, the Petitioner approached the High Court.
  • In order to answer the issue about locus standi, the court impressed on a plain reading of Section 2(j) of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, the very act by which the Tribunal has come into being. Interpreting this section, the Tribunal found that the word ‘person’ deserves to be construed in a broad sense to include an individual, whether a national or a person who is not an Indian citizen. The Court noted that going into the details of Betty’s nationality is not required.
  • The Court laid down in very bold terms that once it is found that any person can file a proceeding related to the environmental dispute, Ms. Betty’s application is maintainable without regards to the question of her nationality.

Almitra H. Patel & Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors. [5]

Complete prohibition on open burning of waste on lands

Facts and Issues

Decided less than a year ago, this case has been the single biggest landmark case dealing with the issue of solid waste management in India.

  • In this case, Mrs. Almitra Patel and another had filed a PIL under Article 32 of the Constitution of India before the Apex Court whereby the Petitioner sought the immediate and urgent improvement in the practices that are presently adopted for the way Municipal Solid Waste or garbage is treated in India.
  • The Tribunal found that the magnitude of the problem was gigantic because over a lakh tonnes of raw garbage is dumped every day and there is no proper treatment of this raw garbage which is dumped just outside the city limits on land, along highway, lakes, nalas etc.
  • The entire country generated over 133760 MT of waste every day as of 2012-2013 and this rate has been increasing with the passage of time.
  • The Tribunal noted the requirement of conversion of this waste into a source of power and fuel to be used for society’s benefit, taking into consideration the Principles of Circular Economy.

Judgment

  • The Tribunal after having evaluated every aspect of this problem issued over 25 directions.
  • The Tribunal directed every state and UT to implement the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 immediately and prepare an action plan in terms of the Rules within 4 weeks.
  • Further, the Tribunal Directed the Central Government, state governments, local bodies and all citizens to perform their respective obligations under the Rules without any delay.
  • Direction was issued to ensure proper segregation before processing of waste in energy plants. It mandated the provision of buffer zones around plants and landfills as required.
  • Absolute segregation has been made mandatory in waste to energy plants and landfills should be used for depositing inert waste only and are subject to bio-stabilization within 6 months.
  • The most important direction of the Tribunal was a complete prohibition on open burning of waste on lands, including at landfills.

Srinagar Bandh Aapda Sangharsh Samiti & Anr. v. Alaknanda hydro Power Co. Ltd. & Ors.[6]

In this case no fault liability principle invoked

Facts and Issues

  • Petitioner No. 1 and another filed a petition raising several issues seeking directions to the first Respondent, Alaknanda Hydro Power Co. Ltd. to compensate to the tune of INR 9,26,42,795 against the damage suffered by the members of the Petitioner Samiti in terms of life and property. The 2013 Uttarakhand floods which caused mass destruction of life and property is the backdrop of this case.
  • The case of the Applicants was that the first Respondent had dumped a huge quantity of ‘muck’ generated during construction of the Srinagar Hydro Electric Project without taking the prescribed measure to secure such much from the floods.
  • Due to heavy rains when the reservoir of the Project got filled, due to the opening of the gates of the dam, all the muck got carried to the villages resulting in huge loss to the life and property of members of the Samiti.
  • The Tribunal had to decide on whether the Respondent No. 1 was liable to pay the claimed compensation.

Judgment

  • The Tribunal reached the conclusion that damage to the property as alleged by the applicants was incurred as a result of flood water, which brought along soil and muck, entering residential premises.
  • There was contribution of Phyllite, which is a product generated by digging of tunnel and canal and through power house excavation downstream the barrage in question. Thus, clear contribution of the project could be noticed.
  • The Tribunal noted that although the 2013 Uttarakhand floods were the result of a cloud burst, the damage caused to the residential area was not the result of Act of God.
  • The muck was about 30 percent, which clearly was the footprint of Respondent No.1’s involvement in the damage. And even if it was an Act of God, the Tribunal saw the invocation of the ‘No Fault Liability’ under Section 17(3) of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 justified, which principle made the Respondent No. 1 liable to pay the claimed compensation along with Rs. 1 lakh each to the applicants along with costs.

This is one of those judgments, whereby the NGT has directly relied on the principle of ‘polluter pays’ and made a private entity liable to pay a compensation, making them subject to a code of environmental jurisprudence.

Samit Mehta vs. Union of India and Ors.[7]

In this case ‘Polluter Pays’ principle invoked

Facts and Issues

This case was held to involve questions of public importance and significance of environmental jurisprudence.

  • In this case, an environmentalist filed applications in relation to the damage caused to the sinking of a ship named M. V. Rak which was carrying huge amounts of coal, fuel oil and diesel.
  • As a result of the ship’s sinking close to the coast of south Mumbai, a thick film of oil was formed on the surface of the sea and large-scale damage was caused to mangroves and marine ecosystem.

Judgment

  • The Tribunal found that negligence could be attributed to Respondents 5, 6, 7 and 11 and elements of mens rea were to be found.
  • Said respondents hadn’t adhered to the principles of pre-voyage due diligence despite having sufficient time.
  • The sinking of the ship was the result of the negligence of the Respondents and upholding the principle of Polluter Pays, the Tribunal directed Respondents 5, 7 and 11 to pay environmental compensation to the tune of Rs. 100 crores to the Ministry of Shipping, GOI, which is one of the biggest compensation amounts ever paid by a private entity against environmental damage done.
  • Further, Respondent 6 was asked to pay a compensation of Rs. 5 crores.

Save Mon Region Federation and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors.[8]

Victory for Birds, Massive Hydro Power Project Loses

Facts and Issues

  • In this case, an appeal was filed by an organization named Save Mon Region Federation along with a social activist against the grant of Environmental Clearance given to a INR 6,400 crore hydro project.
  • The said project was situated close to the wintering site for a bird named Black-necked Crane, which is a Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and features in the ‘Threatened Birds of India’ a literature produced by the Appellants. Apart from the birds, the area was also home to several other endangered species such as the snow leopard, red panda, Arunachal macaque etc.

Judgment

  • The Tribunal very proactively suspended the Environmental Clearance granted to the Project.
  • The Tribunal Directed the EAC to make a fresh appraisal of the proposal for environmental clearance grant and asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest to make a separate study on the protection of the said bird.

References

[1] Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun and Ors. v. State of U.P. and Ors., A.I.R. 1985 S.C. 652.

[2] Chhetriya Pradushan Mukti Sangharsh Samiti v. State of U.P. and Ors., A.I.R. 1990 S.C. 2060.

[3] Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar and Ors., A.I.R. 1991 S.C. 420.

[4] Misc Application No. 32/2014(WZ)

[5] MANU/GT/0150/2016

[6] Original Application No. 03 of 2014: MANU/GT/0101/2016

[7] MANU/GT/0150/2016

[8] MANU/GT/0150/2016

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Save Mon Region Federation and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors.[8] .
    Is Wild life protection Act, 1972 under the jurisdiction of NGT?

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