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Understanding the National Green Tribunal Act in Detail

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was founded on October 18, 2010, under the National Green Tribunal Act and chaired by Adarsh Kumar Goel, a former Supreme Court of India judge. The Tribunal was established to handle cases involving:

  • environmental protection,
  • forest conservation,
  • other natural resource conservation, as well as
  • enforcing any environmental legal rights,
  • providing relief and compensation for losses to people and property, as well as
  • matters related to or incidental to these issues.

The parliament of India passed the National Green Tribunal Act in 2010, which established a special tribunal to resolve environmental disputes on time. It is based on Article 21 of India’s Constitution, which guarantees the right to a healthy environment to all Indian citizens.

What is NGT?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established on 18th October 2010 and started functioning on 4th July 2011. It is a specialist body with the knowledge and experience to address environmental disputes involving multiple disciplines.

India has become the 3rd nation globally, following Australia and New Zealand to establish a dedicated environmental tribunal and the 1st developing nation to establish the NGT.

The NGT has five sitting locations: New Delhi is the primary location, followed by Bhopal as the central zone bench, Pune as the western zone bench, Kolkata as the eastern bench, and Chennai as the southern zone. All the main and regional benches of NGT are currently active.

Structure of the National Green Tribunal

The National Green Tribunal consists of:

  • The Chairperson,
  • Judicial Members, and
  • Expert Members

The members of the tribunal are elected for five years and are therefore ineligible for reappointment.

The Central Government appoints the chairperson in cooperation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

The national government will appoint a Selection Committee to choose the Judicial and Expert Members. The tribunal must have a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 full-time judicial and expert members.

Main objectives of the National Green Tribunal

The National Green Tribunal’s main objectives are as follows:

  • All cases involving environmental preservation and other ecological assets must get resolved quickly and effectively.
  • Within six months after receiving a petition or appeal, the NGT is obligated to make a final decision.
  • The tribunal will also rule on all previous, pending matters.
  • Its principal goal is to ensure that all environmental rights are legally enforced.
  • It is responsible for giving compensation and justice to all those harmed.

Salient features of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010

The NGT act includes significant definitions such as “accident,” “environment,” “expert members,” “handling hazardous chemical,” “injury,” “judicial member,” and “serious environmental question.”

According to this Act, the central government has the authority to establish a tribunal.

Since its inception, the NGT has been obligated to consider complaints and resolve environmental disputes.

The NGT does not need to follow the procedure established in the CPC, 1908, or the rules of evidence included in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, when dealing with complaints and resolving disputes. On the other hand, this Act empowers the tribunal to apply the principle of natural justice.

  • A full-time chairperson and judicial and expert members will make up the panel. The tribunal must have a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 judicial and expert members on the panel.
  • The central government would select the chairperson, judicial members, and expert members in discussion with the Chief Justice of India. The judicial and expert members will be nominated based on the selection committee’s recommendations.
  • The chairperson, judicial member, and expert members shall serve for five years or until they reach retirement age, whichever comes first, as stipulated by this act.
  • The tribunal shall have the same authority as a civil court in making orders, rulings, and rewards. He must apply the principles of sustainable development, precautionary principle, and polluter pay principle while giving any order, decision, or award.
  • This Act also includes mechanisms for appeal and review. Any person who has been wronged by a tribunal order, decision, or award may file an appeal with the Supreme Court, and the tribunal will have the ability to appeal its ruling.
  • Failing to adhere to any order, award, or decision will result in the tribunal taking cognisance of the offence and imposing a penalty.

Main functions of the National Green Tribunal Act

The following are the main functions of the National Green Tribunal Act:

  • The National Green Tribunal is a body with experience in resolving environmental conflicts, including multidisciplinary challenges.
  • The Tribunal’s jurisdiction will allow for speedy trials of environmental cases and will assist in reducing the backlog of cases waiting in higher courts.
  • The tribunal must resolve environmental issues within six months of filing the complaint.
  • The NGT does not have to follow all of the rules set out in the Civil Procedure Code; instead, it can set its own rules and administer justice using the notion of natural justice.
  • When awarding compensation or issuing instructions, it is necessary to consider concepts such as sustainable development.
  • It should keep in mind the concept that whoever is proven to be polluting must pay, i.e. the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle.
  • The Indian Evidence Act does not bind the National Green Tribunal.
  • The IPC provisions will govern the National Green Tribunal’s procedures.
  • The tribunal is empowered to act as a civil court to settle the cases.

Powers of the National Green Tribunal

The following are the powers given to NGT under National Green Tribunal Act:

  • The National Green Tribunal has the authority to hear all environmental civil matters involving implementing all of the legislation mentioned in Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act.

    Any violation of the rules or any improper order issued by the government under these laws can be contested before the National Green Tribunal and decided there. These statutes are listed below:

    • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974
    • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act of 1977
    • The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980
    • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981
    • The Environment (Protection) Act of 1986
    • The Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991
    • The Biological Diversity Act of 2002
  • The National Green Tribunal has been denied the authority to hear disputes involving the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, the Indian Forest Act of 1927, and other state-enacted legislation dealing with forests, tree preservation, and other matters.
  • The NGT has jurisdiction over all disputes involving significant environmental issues, their protection, and any legal rights related to them.
  • The NGT, as a statutory body, has both original and appellate jurisdiction, meaning it can hear appeals as if it were a court.
  • The tribunal is not limited by the procedures outlined in the CPC of 1908, and it decides all cases using natural justice principles.
  • Before deciding any case, the tribunal considers all concepts, like sustainable development, polluter pays, and precautionary principles.
  • The NGT can issue the following orders:
    • All sufferers of pollution and other environmental harm and accidents when handling dangerous substances are entitled to compensation and redress.
    • Restitution of a lost or damaged item
    • Reparation of the environment in locations deemed appropriate by the tribunal.
  • Within 90 days from the date of notification of the order in the matter, the Supreme Court of India might consider an appeal against any order made by the tribunal.

Strengths of NGT

  • The NGT has established itself as a key participant in managing environmental concerns spanning from waste management to deforestation throughout the years.
  • It aids the progress of environmental jurisprudence by establishing an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system.
  • It relieves the strain on higher courts by focusing on environmental matters that civil courts previously addressed.
  • The tribunal settles cases for less money and is less formal and a faster manner of settling cases.
  • It contributes significantly to the reduction of environmental impact.
  • Because the Chairperson and the other members of NGT are not subject to reappointment, they can make decisions without being pressured.
  • It checks to see if the Environmental Impact Assessment process is being followed correctly.

Procedure for filing an appeal or application in NGT under National Green Tribunal Act

To make an application for environmental compensation or an appeal against a government order or decision, the NGT follows a relatively easy procedure. The NGT’s official language is English.

A fee of Rs. 1000/- must be paid for each application/appeal that does not entail a demand for compensation. If compensation is sought, the cost will be 1% of the amount sought, with at least Rs. 1000/-.

A compensation claim can be submitted for the following:

  • Survivors of pollution and environmental damage, including incidents involving dangerous substances, are entitled to relief and compensation.
  • Damaged property restitution;
  • Restoration of the ecosystem in such regions as the NGT determines.

No application for compensation, relief or restitution of property or the environment will be considered unless submitted within five years of the date upon which cause for compensation or relief originally arose.

Challenges faced by the National Green Tribunal

The national green tribunal is confronted with the following challenges:

  • Two significant acts are not subject to the NGT’s jurisdiction:
    • the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972
    • the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

    Because the underlying issue of forest rights is intrinsically linked to the environment, this restricts the NGT’s jurisdiction and, at times, makes it impossible to function.

  • The NGT’s judgements are being disputed in different High Courts under Article 226 (authority of High Courts to issue certain writs), with many alleging that the High Court is superior to the NGT and claiming that “the High Court is a constitutional authority while the NGT is a statutory authority.”
  • One of the Act’s flaws is that it is unclear what rulings can be appealed, even though the NGT’s decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court under the National Green Tribunal Act.
  • NGT choices have been attacked and questioned because of their repercussions for economic development and growth.
  • NGT has also been condemned for not having a formula-based compensation scheme.
  • Stakeholders and the government do not completely implement the NGT’s rulings, and its choices are sometimes unfeasible to carry out within a given timeframe.
  • Due to a lack of people and financial resources, many cases go unresolved. It jeopardises the NGT’s stated aim of resolving appeals within 6 months.
  • The small amount of regional benches also impedes the delivery of justice.

Conclusion

The National Green Tribunal is a unique fast-track court dedicated to resolving environmental civil matters swiftly. The tribunal’s main bench is in Delhi, and there are four circuit benches in the tribunal.

It is the only organisation of its sort that is required by law to apply the “polluter pays” principle and the notion of sustainable development. Because the Act reinforces the structure of global environmental governance, it is regarded as a crucial step in capacity building.

Even while policy enforcement has been inadequate, the court has been the backbone for producing a substantial body of environmental jurisprudence. More autonomy and a broader scope for the National Green Tribunal act are required for successful environmental protection compatible with human development.

FAQs on National Green Tribunal Act

What is the location of the National Green Tribunal's main proceedings?

New Delhi

Under which five-year plan was the National Green Tribunal established?

11th five-year plan

When was Mahanadi Water Dispute Tribunal set up?

In March 2018

On March 25, 2017, who hosted the World Conference on Environment?

National Green Tribunal

What is the penalty for not complying with the orders of the tribunal?

The penalty for not complying with the orders of the National green tribunal is imprisonment extending up to 3 years or with a fine extending up to 25 crore rupees.

Where are the powers and procedures of the tribunal prescribed?

The powers and procedures of the national green tribunal are prescribed under section 19 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.

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