07 Jul National Green Tribunal
This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “National Green Tribunal”. The topic “National Green Tribunal” has relevance in the “Governance and Environment” section of the UPSC CSE exam.
National Green Tribunal
Composition, Functions, Procedures
GS2: Role and effectiveness of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in addressing environmental issues
Why in the news?
During the past five years, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has reported receiving 15,312 cases and resolving 16,402 cases, as reported in recent news articles.
National Green Tribunal
- The National Green Tribunal is a statutory body established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
- The National Green Tribunal is a specialized and proficient body that deals with complex environmental disputes encompassing multiple disciplines.
- The Tribunal’s exclusive jurisdiction in environmental matters ensures swift dispensation of environmental justice and alleviates the load of litigation in higher courts.
- The Principal bench of the Tribunal is in New Delhi, while Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai serve as the other four regional benches.
Objectives of NGT
- Ensuring prompt and efficient resolution of cases concerning the protection of the environment and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
- Upholding and enforcing legal rights pertaining to the environment.
- Providing redress and compensation for individuals affected by damages related to the environment.
Composition of NGT
- The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is led by a Chairperson who presides over the Principal Bench.
- The Tribunal comprises a minimum of ten and a maximum of twenty judicial as well as expert members.
- The members of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) have a term of three years or until they reach the age of sixty-five, whichever comes first.
- They are not eligible for reappointment.
- The appointment of the Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is made by the Central Government after consulting with the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- To appoint the Judicial Members and Expert Members, a Selection Committee is formed by the central government.
Powers & Jurisdiction
- Anyone affected by environmental damage related to the subjects listed in Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 can seek relief and compensation by approaching the Tribunal.
- The statutes in Schedule I are:
- 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 Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving a substantial question relating to the environment and the question.
- Furthermore, individuals who are dissatisfied with an order or direction issued by any of the Appellate Authorities mentioned above have the right to challenge them before the National Green Tribunal. The Tribunal is not obligated to follow the procedural rules outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but must adhere to principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal has a responsibility to make every effort to resolve applications or appeals within six months of their submission.
- It is not mandatory to hire a lawyer in order to approach the Tribunal. Affected parties have the option to personally approach the Tribunal by submitting an application in the specified format.
- The decisions of the Tribunal hold legal weight and are enforceable, as it possesses the same powers as a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
- The Tribunal is empowered to review its own decisions. If this fails, the decision can be challenged before the Supreme Court within a period of ninety days.
Strength of NGT
- Evolution of Environmental Jurisprudence: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) plays an important role in the growth of environmental jurisprudence by offering an alternative dispute settlement system. This reduces the burden of environmental litigation in higher courts.
- Litigation load Reduction: It aids in the reduction of the litigation load on environmental matters in the higher courts.
- Faster Dispute Resolution: The NGT provides a less formal and less expensive alternative for certain environmental conflicts.
- Limiting Environmentally Harmful Activities: The NGT also helps to limit environmentally harmful activities, supporting sustainable practices and conserving natural resources.
Challenges in the functioning of NGT
- Lack of adequate members and infrastructure:
- The NGT Act envisages a minimum of 10 judicial and 10 expert members, but the NGT is currently functioning with only 6 judicial and 5 expert members.
- The NGT also faces issues such as lack of basic amenities, staff shortage, and inadequate funds.
- Restriction on suo motu jurisdiction:
- The NGT Act does not explicitly grant or deny the NGT the power to take up cases on its own motion.
- However, some High Courts have restrained the NGT from exercising this power, which limits its ability to address environmental issues proactively.
- Frequent appeals to High Courts:
- The NGT Act provides that any person aggrieved by an order of the NGT may appeal directly to the Supreme Court within 90 days.
- However, some High Courts have entertained appeals under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, which defeats the purpose of expeditious disposal of cases by the NGT.
- Non-scientific determination of compensation:
- The NGT Act does not prescribe any methodology or criteria for calculating environmental compensation.
- The NGT has often relied on arbitrary percentages of project cost or sale proceeds, without considering the actual extent of environmental damage or the polluter’s ability to pay.
- Trend of not penalizing governmental authorities:
- The NGT has failed to impose significant monetary penalties on governmental authorities who have violated environmental laws or failed to perform their duties.
- Even in cases where the NGT has held them accountable, the implementation of orders has been poor.
- Dilution of NGT’s independence through amendments to the Finance Act, 2017:
- The Finance Act, 2017 inserted a provision in the NGT Act that allows the Central Government to make rules regarding the qualifications, appointment, term, salaries, removal and other conditions of service of the NGT’s members.
- This undermines the autonomy and credibility of the NGT as a quasi-judicial body.
- Exclusion of certain laws from NGT’s jurisdiction:
- The NGT Act does not empower the NGT to deal with matters relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
- These are important laws for protecting biodiversity and forest rights, which are often linked to environmental issues.
- Lack of expertise in the functioning of the Tribunal:
- The NGT is supposed to have expert members who can advise judges on scientific and technical aspects of environmental cases.
- However, there have been instances where the NGT’s decisions have been questioned or overruled by the Supreme Court for lack of expertise or merits-based review.
Q1. With reference to National Green Tribunal, consider the following statements:
- The Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) is constituted at New Delhi with Zonal Benches at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bhopal.
- According to the NGT Act, the appeal from the Tribunal shall lie directly before the Supreme Court.
- Although the Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, it is necessary to have legal representation in order to approach the Tribunal.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q2. How many of the following legislations mentioned in Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010?
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
How many of the statements given above are correct?
(a) Only two
(b) Only three
(c) Only four
(d) Only five
Q3. Examine the role and effectiveness of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in addressing environmental issues.