The National Green Tribunal (or otherwise called as the Green Tribunal) is a specialised forum for effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment protection, conservation of forests and for seeking compensation for damages caused to the people/property due to violation of the environmental laws or conditions specified while granting permissions. The National Green Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as NGT) Act, 2010 oversee the regulation of the forum.
Established on October 18, 2010 by the Central Government, the Tribunal gauges to establish a laid objective of expeditious case disposal by drawing inspiration from India’s Constitutional provision of Article 48A, assuring citizens the right to a healthy environment.
Structure of the forum
The Principal Bench of the NGT sits in the National Capital-New Delhi, with several regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench). Each Bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States in a region.
The Green Tribunals has mechanism for circuit benches as well. For instance, the Southern Zone bench, which is based in Chennai, can decide to have sittings in other places too like Bangalore or Hyderabad. The official language of the NGT is English.
The bench is chaired by a Chairperson who is a retired judge of the Supreme Court. The Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member. The Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.[i] On 18th October, 2010, Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta became the first Chairman of NGT.
Principles guiding the NGT
The NGT remains unbound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. It shall be guided by principles of natural justice. Further, NGT is also not bound by the rules enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Thus, conservation groups find is relatively easier 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.
Sustainable Development remains a key element for NGT to lay the foundation on. While passing orders/decisions/awards, it must apply the principles of ‘sustainable development’, the ‘precautionary principle’ and the ‘polluter pays’.
Powers of the Forum
The NGT encapsulates the power to entertain all civil cases relating to environment and to answer questions related/linked to the implementation of laws listed in the Schedule I of the NGT Act, 2010. The inclusive laws can be tabulated as the following:
|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|
Any violation pertaining to the aforementioned laws or any decision of the Central Government can be challenged before the Tribunal.[ii] It is important to note here is that the NGT has not been vested with the powers to entertain matters relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 or the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Usually, the High Court of the concerned State or the Hon’ble Apex Court is approached for any specific/substantial issue via the mode of Writ Petition.
Procedure for filing an Application
There lies a simple procedure for filing an application before the Tribunal. The reason might vary from seeking compensation for environmental damage to an appeal against the order of the Central/State Government.
A claim for Compensation can be made for:
- Compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage including accidents involving hazardous substances;
- Restitution of property damaged;
- Restitution of the environment for such areas as determined by the NGT.
No application for grant of any compensation or relief shall be entertained unless it is made within a period of five years from the date on which the cause for such compensation or relief first arose.
- For every Application / Appeal to be filed, where no claim for compensation is involved, a fee of thousand is to be paid.
- In cases where compensation is being claimed, the fee will be one percent of the amount of compensation subject to a minimum of one thousand.
Under Rule 22 of the NGT Rules[iii], there is a provision for seeking a Review of a decision or Order of the NGT. Otherwise if it fails, an NGT Order can be challenged before the Supreme Court within ninety days. Provisions of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 would be applicable to the provisions of the NGT Act.[iv] Beyond the set time period, the respective courts will only entertain the case only if it is well – satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from preferring the appeal. There needs to be sufficient cause shown for condoning the delay.[v] And if the court isn’t fully satisfied that the reasons adduced are not acceptable for the purpose of condonation of delay, such case goes to a straight cancellation.[vi]
“The views of the authors are personal“
[i] National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, § 6, No. 19, Acts of Parliament, 2010 (India).
[ii] National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, § 2(2), No. 19, Acts of Parliament, 2010 (India).
[iii] Rule 22(1) of the National Green Tribunal (Practice and Procedure) rules, 2011.
[iv] State of Madhya Pradesh v. Anshuman Shukla, 2014 10 SCC 814.
[v] Sunil Kumar Samanta v. West Bengal Pollution Control Board, 2014 Vol 2, NGT Reporter 250.
[vi] M/s Global Gases India Pvt. Ltd v. Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Miscellaneous Application Nos. 16 and 17/2010 (Before National Green Tribunal, Southern Zone, Chennai).