NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL JURISPRUDENCE: SYNERGY OF ACTIONS
[Vol 1/ Issue 2/ Apr 2015] [ISSN 2394-9295]
Dr. Bhavish Gupta
Amity Law School, Delhi
Although, India has a comprehensive environmental framework with extensive set of environmental laws and institutional frameworks to implement and enforce environmental policy objectives, various environmental safeguards were rendered toothless due to lack of effectiveness and implementation.
The root cause responsible for our failure in protecting the environment and maintaining smooth environmental governance has been identified as the poor implementation of environmental law and principles of Sustainable Development especially at the domestic level. This has highlighted the critical importance of the domestic system of access to justice that in turn greatly depends on formal institutional mechanism or organization of courts and their environmental sensibility.
The need to enforce new generation environmental rights of the contemporary society led to the launch of a global movement for creation of specialist environment courts. The primary objective of this paper is to appreciate the real contribution of the National Green Tribunal in the growth of environmental jurisprudence in India. The study will particularly focus on the effectiveness of the role of the National Green Tribunal in incorporating the principles of sustainable development in the Indian legal framework. Further, a study of the landmark case laws of the NGT will provide an insight into the standpoint of the NGT on major environmental issues.
Man-nature relationship is crucial to Indian value system. The essence of this relationship is explicitly reflected in the edicts of the Atharva Veda and in the historical environmental ethics of Vasudhaiva Kudumbakam (i.e. fraternity with the environment). The Indian principles overtly affirm man‘s responsibility to preserve his environment.
Globally, a related doctrine of Sustainable Development emerged in modern times. Sustainable Development emanated from the 1972 Stockholm Declaration andwasgiven definite shape in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. In its report Our Common Future, it defined this doctrine as the development that ―meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs . Today Sustainable Development is the bedrock of International Environmental Jurisprudence.
Consequently, proactive Indian judiciary aligned its efforts to integrate the ancient Indian philosophy and the leading principles of International Environmental Law. Ever since, the Supreme Court of India has developed a
body of green constitutional law and brought salutary advancement to environmental jurisprudence, within the constitutional mandate of Article 48-A and Article 51A (g).
In order to safeguard against the deleterious effects of environmental degradation, the Supreme Court initiated and indulged in activist intervention. Furthermore, it resorted to liberal construction of the Constitution and brought innovative methods in environmental jurisprudence, both substantive and procedural. These judicial initiatives include liberal construction of fundamental rights, expansion of the existing procedure, application of new principles to address environmental problems and creation of new structures and implementation of Court orders through Continuing Mandamus.
The apex court radically expanded the scope and ambit of Article 21 Right to Life & Article 32 Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. It expansively interpreted the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 to include the right to wholesome (i.e. clean and safe) environment and includes the right to living environment congenial to human existence And promoted the exercise of Article 32 for enforcement of the right to a clean environment as a facet of the right to life itself.
Aiming to integrate vital elements of fairness, equity and access to justice into Indian environmental jurisprudence, it allowed the practice of Public Interest Litigation [PIL]. In numerous cases before the Supreme Court, it liberally construed the principle of locus standi to allow class action against public nuisance, with the objective of securing enforcement of environment related rights.
EMERGENCE OF GREEN COURTS AND TRIBUNALS
The need to enforce new generation environmental rights of the contemporary society led to the launch of a global movement for creation of specialist environment courts. This revolutionary initiative aims ―to qualitatively improve outcomes for litigants and society. The chief objective behind creation of such specialist courts is to establish a formal institutional mechanism in environmental governance so as to provide access to justice in environmental issues expeditiously at nominal cost while preventing excessive burdening and resultant inconvenience of the regular courts.
The emergence of this trend may be traced back to 1917, when Denmark established the Nature Protection Board with the purpose of preservation of the natural environment. Next the Water Court was set up in Sweden with focus on water rights issues. With the launch of environmental movement since Stockholm Conference Environmental Courts & Tribunals became popular due to complex nature of environmental issues.
The popularity of Environmental Courts or Tribunals is reflected in the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Experts Group on Access to Environmental Justice in the Caribbean Report that noted ―consensus has emerged in the region on the need for the establishment of specialized and independent courts or specialized environmental divisions of the High Court judicial system and advised expansion of the jurisdiction of these Environmental Courts or Tribunals in order to include ―the built environment, indigenous peoples rights, development planning issues and land tenure.
Similarly at the regional level, the Asian Judges Symposium on Environmental Decision-Making, the Rule of Law, and Environmental Justice organizes by the Asian Development Bank [ADB] lay emphasis on
―improving environmental and natural resource decision making and adjudication within regional judiciaries,
without assuming that any particular form or structure is the best way to achieve effective environmental decision making and adjudication in different country contexts; highlighting environmental specialization within general courts, as well as exploring work done by specialist environmental courts, boards, and tribunals. Importantly, without drivers for increasing the demand for effective environmental judicial decision-making from the judiciary, environmental judicial specializations could go unused. 
As a result, recently, Kenya, Brazil, Chile and England have founded environmental courts and tribunals with expanded jurisdiction that include a vast variety of environmental issues.
Correspondingly, even the Supreme Court of India has supported this current trend, keeping in mind the national developmental and environmental needs.
PERCEIVING THE NEED FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF ENVIRONMENT COURTS IN INDIA
Although, India has a comprehensive environmental framework with extensive set of environmental laws and institutional frameworks to implement and enforce environmental policy objectives, various environmental safeguards were rendered toothless due to lack of effectiveness and implementation. This has highlighted the critical importance of the domestic system of access to justice that in turn greatly depends on formal institutional mechanism or organization of courts and their environmental sensibility.
As the chief tools to environmental justice – Writ Jurisdiction & PIL proved to be unsuccessful due to rapidly increasing number of petitions, expensive and delayed disposal of petitions, complex technical and scientific issues in environmental matters; the issue of establishing a specialist environmental court in India became increasingly crucial.
International instruments like Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992 and the Aarhus Convention, 1998 highlighted the need for promotion of easy access to a fair, equitable, timely and inexpensive justice system. Keeping in line with these international standards, the Supreme Court of India embarked on a
creative‘ activist phase and made observations regarding the need for constitution of environmental courts. The Law Commission of India in its 186th Report of the Law Commission of India on Proposal to Constitute Environment Courts‘ (2003) recognized the inadequacies of the existing appellate authorities and reviewed their position on the same. The Law Commission strongly advocated the establishment of Environment Courts‘ pursuant to the observations of the Supreme Court of India in judgments namely, MC Mehta v. Union of India, Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India, A.P. Pollution Control Board v. Nayudu.
Answering the need of the hour for a balanced judicial forum that advances a distinctively green jurisprudence, the National Green Tribunal was proposed as the federal judicial body for ―effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forest and other natural resources.
As a result, the Parliament of India enacted the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. The NGT started functioning on the 4th July 2011. The Principal Bench was created at New Delhi with circuit benches at Chennai, Bhopal, Pune and Kolkata so that it can reach remoter parts of India.
GREEN COURTS IN INDIA TRULY A ‘JUDGEDRIVEN REFORM’
It must be appreciated that it is truly the Supreme Court‘s precedents that are really the force behind creation and establishment of environment courts in India. As the Commission explicitly observed in its opening
remarks, ―pursuant to the observations of the Supreme Court of India in four judgments and further overtly quoted these cases M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, Indian Council for Envtl-Legal Action v. Union of India, A.P. Pollution Control Board v. Nayudu, A.P. Pollution Control Board v. Nayudu in the Report.These precedents set by the Supreme Court of India advocated in favour of an open, accessible and technically sound environmental justice system. Hence, the resultant establishment of green courts and particularly the National Green Tribunal may appropriately be credited to the progressive outlook and positive aggression of the Supreme Court of India and rightly be described as a JudgeDriven Reform‘.
It may well be concluded that in view of the present international standing of India as an emerging market economy that is faced by critical trade and development issues in the backdrop of ostensible conflicts between developmental and sustainability issues balancing these issues through organization of specialist environmental courts looks promising.
The legislators may establish these specialist environmental courts under Article 247 as Additional Courts‘ on the lines of successful specialist environmental courts such as those operational in Australia and New Zealand. These additional courts shall be characterized by Judicial and Technical inputs on the Bench, having original as well as appellate jurisdiction with all the powers of a Civil Court and expanded jurisdiction as compared to earlier versions.
The environmental courts however must be characterized by the Polluter Pays Principle, the Precautionary Principle, the Prevention Principle, New Burden Of Proof‘ principle, the principle of Sustainable Development‘, Public Trust doctrine, Concept of InterGenerational Equityand the Strict Liability principle.
The National Green Tribunal held its first hearing on May 25, 2011. The National Green Tribunal started proper functioning from 4th July 2011.
ROLE OF NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL
The National Green Tribunal with its wide powers and jurisdiction has played a vital role in bringing well-timed awareness and prominence to legal environmental concerns in India. This Tribunal has emerged as a new hope for the green revolution in the nation. Through its far-sighted and progressive judgments on various environmental issues it has drastically changed the face of environmental jurisprudence in India. It is best to obtain an insight into the standpoint of the NGT on major environmental issues through a critical evaluation of its judgments & orders in the matters before it. The National Green Tribunal gave its first judgment on 12th September 2011.
FEW LANDMARK CASES OF THE NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL
- Goa Foundation & Ors. V. Union of India & Ors.
Decided on 18th July 2013
Goa Foundationa registered society along with Peaceful Society both being frontrunners of environment campaigns in Goa working towards conserving and protecting the ecology of Western Ghats and supporters of“Save the Western Ghats March”; applied to the NGT for interim relief for directing the respondents not to issue any consent/environmental clearance or NOC or permission under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 or the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, within the Western Ghats areas,
particularly in relation to those which have been demarcated as Ecological Sensitive Zone I (ESZ 1) and
Ecologically Sensitive Zone II (ESZ 2).
The applicants further demanded the discharge of obligation on part of the respondents by exercise of the powers conferred on them under the enactments stated in Schedule I to the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 for preservation and protection of Western Ghats within the framework, as articulated by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) in its report dated 31st August, 2012.
The Government had constituted the WGEEP or the Dr. Madhav Gadgil Committee on persuasion of various organizations on 4th March 2010.The Committee had submitted its report on 31st August 2012 but the same remained pending for consideration with the MoEF.
Although, the matter was pending before the Bombay High Court when the application was presented before the Tribunal, the Tribunal deemed it fit to take up the matter due to the sensitivity of the issue. The indiscriminate developmental activity posed serious threat to the ecology of the Western Ghats. If allowed it would lead to disadvantage of the public interest in violation of the Public Trust Doctrine. Hence, the NGT recognized the imminent requirement of intervention so that environmental equilibrium may be maintained and ensured.
In this case the NGT addressed issues of its jurisdiction, clarified the terms „any person aggrieved‟ & „cause of action‟ and applicability of principle of sustainable development, precautionary principle and polluter pays principle in its functioning.
This gave rise to questions relating to the scope of jurisdiction of the National Green Tribunal and whether its ambit included enforcement of fundamental rights. In response the NGT held that the NGT was established
―for 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”. Hence, the Preamble sufficiently indicates that the Tribunal is vested with jurisdiction to enforce fundamental rights under Section 14 when the contents satisfy the ingredients of it being in the nature of a civil case and relate to a substantial question of environment relating to implementation of the enactments specified in Schedule I to the NGT Act. However, the Tribunal doesn‘t have extraordinary jurisdiction unlike the Supreme Court so it must function within the framework of the NGT Act while keeping in mind its object and purpose as specified by the legislature.
The tribunal further clarified that the societies having no direct or personal interest in invoking the provisions of the Act came „any person aggrieved‟ under Section 18 and thus have a right to appeal to the Tribunal against any order, decision or direction issued by the authority concerned and so they could pray for issuance of directions as per provision of Section 16 of the NGT Act.
The tribunal explained that under Section 14 „cause of action‟ relates a bundle of facts pleaded and proved for the purpose of obtaining the relief claimed in the petition. In order examine the cause of action the petition must be read as a whole. Under the NGT, the „cause of action‟ relates to a question of the environment i.e. socio-centric and not person centric and must be decided with reference to the dispute.
The tribunal also affirmed the applicability of Principle Of Sustainable Development, Precautionary Principle and thePolluter Pays as provided under Section 20 of the NGT Act. Prevention of likely damage to environment is covered under the precautionary principle hence inaction could itself be a violation of the precautionary principle, and therefore place statutory obligation on Government to take appropriate steps to prevent harm to public by controlling pollution and protecting the environment and ecology of the Western Ghats.
For the reasons aforesaid, the tribunal upholding that the Right to life includes right to environment within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution of India held that the application was maintainable. It also held that the applicant has been successful in making out a case of non- performance of the statutory obligation by the State and other authorities and the need to prevent environmental degradation under the precautionary principle on the other. Thus, the applicant has a legal right to approach the Tribunal and pray for relief within the scheme of the NGT Act without showing any personal injury or any actual damage to the environment.
The above case displays the competence of the NGT in dealing with matters of deciding its jurisdiction as well as its potential in rightly enforcing Right to Life that includes Right to healthy environment while applying precautionary principle. It truly showcases the progressive and effective outlook adopted by the new specialist tribunal.
- National Green Tribunal Bar Association V. Ministry of Environment & Forests & Ors.
(Sand Mining Case)
Decided on 5th August 2013
The Case deals with the large scale illegal and impermissible mining activity on the bank of rivers Yamuna, Ganga, Chambal, Gaumti and Revati. Such removal of minerals from the river beds causes serious threat to the flow of the river, forests upon river bank and to the environment of these areas. The gravity of the situation may be inferred by the fact that mining activity is being carried out on a large scale, causing heavy losses of State.
The tribunal cited the Supreme Court judgment Deepak Kumar & Ors v. State of Haryana & Ors that highlighted that sand mining causes bio-diversity disturbance as loss of habitat affects various species, flora and fauna and also destabilizes the soil structure of river banks. In this case the Supreme Court had affirmed that a person carrying on mining activity in less than 5 hectares is required to obtain EIA Clearance from MoEF.
On the above grounds the tribunal admitted the Petition finding therein substantial question within the ambit of Section 14 arising from the Acts under Schedule – I of NGT Act 2010. Hence, the tribunal issued Notice with an order restraining any person, company, authority from carrying out any mining activity or removal of sand, from river beds anywhere in the country without obtaining Environmental Clearance from MoEF/SEIAA and license from the competent authorities. Further it issued directions to all the Deputy Commissioners, Superintendent of Police and Mining Authorities of all States to ensure compliance of its directions.
This order of NGT is commendable as it attempts to curb rampant malpractices that adversely and seriously threaten the natural resources of the nation. It shows the zero tolerance of the NGT with regard to any operations without obtaining EIA or EC that would result in serious ecosystem disturbance and degradation.
- Haat Supreme Wastech Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. V. State of Haryana & Ors.
Dated: 28th November, 2013
This case pertains to medico-legal jurisprudence of some public significance within the ambit of substantial question relating to environment. The present case deals with the question as to whether the bio-medical waste disposal plants require Environmental Clearance (EC) in terms of the
Environmental Clearance Regulation, 2006.
In the present case the appellants are running units of Bio-Medical Waste Treatment facility with due authorization under Bio-Medical Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1998. They applied to the prescribed authority i.e. Haryana State Pollution Control Board, for renewal of the authorization. The State and the Central Pollution Control Boards, conducted an inspection of the Appellants‘ premises and pointed out certain shortcomings. Thereafter, they received notices from the state authority to deposit Rs. 5 lakhs each by way of bank guarantee to ensure compliance of the directions. Subsequently, the Central Authority called upon them to deposit a bank guarantee of Rs.10 lakhs each and take steps to remove the deficiencies.
The Appellants challenged the jurisdictiona and authority of the Central quthority on the grounds of arbitrariness and discriminatory.
The Tribunal has dealt in detail with the definitions of “environment”, “hazardous substance” and “environmental pollutant” in order to explain the interrelationships and the wide ambit of environmental jurisprudence and the obvious need to prevent pollution. The bio-medical waste by its very characteristic nature is a hazardous waste. Rule 2 of the Rules of 2008, deals with the application of these Rules. It provides that the Rules shall apply to the handling of hazardous waste as specified in the Schedule. Hence, the plants dealing with such bio-medical hazardous wastes and substances must obtain environmental clearance under the provisions of the Entry 7(d) of Notification of 2006. The tribunal directed all appellants and the respondents to obtain environment clearance in terms of site location, potential environmental impacts and proposed environmental safeguards from MoEF in accordance with law.
The tribunal herein observed that the environmental clearance would ensure a critical analysis of the appropriateness of location and its surroundings. While also guaranteeing strict adherence of legal parameters and minimise impact on public health.
This case provides an insight into the NGT‘s perception on the issue of hazardous substances and its handling. The NGT order reiterates the EIA concept in line with the Precautionary Principle.
- Jan ChetnaV. Ministry of Environment and Forests
Decided on 9th February 2012
The case refers to an appeal by representatives of Jan Chetna a social and environmental group working for the welfare of the local communities and creating awareness on social and environmental issues against the environment clearance granted by the MoEF to M/s. Scania Steels & Power Ltd. (formerly known as Sidhi Vinayak Sponge Iron Ltd.).
M/s. Scania Steels & Power Ltd. was operating a Sponge Iron Plant in Village Punjipatra, Tehsil Gharghoda, District Raigarh in the State of Chhattisgarh, had applied to MoEF for expansion of its existing project to enhance its production by adding another unit.
The Appellants claimed to be aggrieved by the grant on account of having agriculture land adjacent to the project site. The NEAA dismissed the Appeal and the appellents appealed before the High Court of Delhi which set aside the order passed by NEAA and directed the said Authority to dispose of the Appeal on merits. In the meantime The NGT Act was promulgated and the Appeal stood transferred to NGT.
The tribunal recapitulate the need to allow development within the carrying capacity of the ecosystem in line with sustainable development. The importance of development to the country as it generates foreign exchange and provides employment avenues is of great importance. However, the same shall not be carried out at the cost of ecology and pose health hazards. Hence, the triunal highlighted the need for application of “Precautionary Principle” and the “Polluter Pays Principle”.
In the present case the tribunal liberally constructed the expression “aggrieved persons” and included the Appellants therein.
It also held that the EIA Notifications, 2006 gave due recognition to the procedure of public consultations in furtherance of the rights to the environment. It explained that Public consultations consisted of public hearing at the site or in its close proximity and to obtain responses in writing from other concerned persons having a plausible stake in the environmental aspects of the project or activity.
It clarified that Clause 7(ii) stipulates that all applications seeking prior environmental clearance for expansion with new increase in the production capacity would attract the exclusion of Public consultation. However, in the case in hand wherein the production capacity of an existing Sponge Iron Unit is sought to be enhanced no prior environmental clearance has been granted thus the concession not to hold public consultation cannot be extended to it.
Hence, the decision to exempt Public Consultation was not just and proper specially due to significant increase in pollution load and consequential environmental ramifications. Considering the magnitude of the proposed project, the public opinion must be sought.
It highlighted the importance of due diligence on part of EAC or State Level EAC in EIA and Public Consultations only for expansion proposals or modernization where prior environmental clearance had been accorded under this Notification (EIA Notification, 2006).
In view of the above the tribunal directed the MoEF to hold public consultation (Public Hearing), develop appropriate mechanism, to check the authenticity of environmental data reported to facilitate a more realistic environmental appraisal of project. It further demanded action to against Consultants found to have reported
―cooked data or ―wrong data in producing substandard EIA/EMP report.
The Tribunal suspended the EC granted till the tribunal‘s directions were complied with for completing the exercise of public consultation (Public Hearing) and curing the deficiency in EIA/EMP, and re-visit the entire project in the light of the observations made by this Tribunal by the MoEF expeditiously.
The present case reiterates the progressive stand on part of the Tribunal of balancing development and sustainability and highlights the importance of Public Hearing process in grant of EC especially to large scale projects.
- Supreme Court Group Housing Society and Another V. All India Panchayat Parishad and
Others (Delhi Noise Pollution Case)
Decided on 18th December 2012
The present case relates to a Public Interest Litigation filed by the Supreme Court Group Housing Society andIndian Foreign Service Group Housing Society in the Hon‘ble High Court of Delhi pertaining to the noise pollution caused due to use of loud speakers, DJ systems, Music Systems, public address system etc. during weddings, receptions, parties and other functions arranged in the premises of All India Panchayat Parishad situated in a strategic point of the Housing Societies thereby violating the terms of allotment of the said premises.
It was submitted that All India Panchayat Parishad let out the premises for marriages and parties wherein noise pollution that not only caused annoyance, but also lead to significant adverse health impacts as high blood pressure, hearing impairment, neurological disorders with serious impact on development of their mental capacity of children etc.
The Appellants also complained of consequent heavy vehicular traffic and related parking problems that obstructs the right of way of the residents and results in continuous use of horns ultimately disturbing peace in the area. The nuisance was further intensified by the leftover food and garbage left unheeded and posing serious health hazards.
The tribunal acknowledged that, Noise is regarded as a major pollutant under the provision of Noise Pollution (Regulations and Control) Rules 2000 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Pollution is wrongful contamination of the environment that causes material injury to right of an individual in form of health hazards and therefore violates Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Hence, these Rules require maintenance of ambient quality standards in respect of noise for different areas & zones as specified in the schedule annexed therewith. Further, it upheld that as per the prescribed procedure, any person requiring the use of loud speaker or public address system is required to take prior permission from the Police. Also, such use shall be prohibited between 10.00 pm to 6.00 am.
The Tribunal was satisfied that applicable laws have been violated. Therefore, it directed the Divisional Commissioner to coordinate and convene a meeting of all the concerned authorities and come up with a detailed Action Plan to reduce or mitigate noise pollution.
The Tribunal made definite recommendations to modify this Action Plan. It suggested the establishment of a call centre where noise pollution complaints can be lodged 24 x 7 hours by the citizens wherefrom the complaints be forwarded to the Area SHO and be dealt with confiscation and seizure of the amplifiers. The case must be brought before the area SDM within 24 hours of such seizure.
It further required devising of standard operating procedure (SOP) regarding control of noise pollution in industrial, hospitals and educational/institutional areas with monitoring mechanism and surveillance system, ban on use of generator sets of capacity of 5 KVA and above in the residential area between 10 pm to 6 am and use of decibel meters .
The tribunal suggested inclusion of provisions for compounding of offences of noise pollution by notification, increase of fine amount
It advised the inclusion of status of pressure horn in the vehicle at the level of issuing pollution control certificate, ban on manufacturing, distribution and sale of pressure horn and ban on modification of vehicular silencers in the NCT of Delhi, check and prohibition of entry of heavy vehicles fitted with pressure horns, launch of awareness campaigns via pamphlets in association with Traffic Police.
The tribunal directed the Police to effect Mandatory Challan and prosecutions of noise polluting vehicles, strict implementation laws, assistance of the area SDM in survey of the religious places causing noise pollution
Furthering the education of noise pollution and its adverse impacts the subject must be incorporated education materials in the curriculum of the schools and IEC activities amongst the students and youth in consultation with the DCs.
The tribunal prohibited the All India Panchayat Parishad from letting out the premises in future for marriages & other functions that may cause noise pollution problems. And directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to take appropriate action with regard to left over food & garbage.
The above case is a vivid example of proactive approach of the NGT in setting out in detail the environmental standards to be maintained especially with regard to Noise Pollution. The present case provides an insight into the dynamic attitude of NGT in encouraging executive action in environmental matters.
With the help of these decisions an insight can be drawn on the eco-friendly standpoint of the NGT. The NGT however, must be truly understood as the platform that promotes sustainable development and endeavors to balance developmental needs with environment protection. It must be commended for its straight forward attitude while dealing with erring agencies of the state. The NGT in its functioning has resorted to liberal construction of the applicable laws keeping in mind the spirit of the enactment in order to effectively deal with new situations.
The National Green Tribunal Act shall be heralded as a path-breaking effort on part of the Indian Legislator. With the enactment India has become the third country in the world after Australia and New Zealand to establish a specialist environmental court in line with international environmental law principles. It is thus a proud model for its neighbors in Asia in environmental jurisprudence.
Despite the unenthusiastic reception meted out to the NGT by the Central government in its establishment as a fully functional tribunal with well-equipped infrastructure, the Tribunal has performed commendably. It has carried out its duty of extending Access to Environmental Justice laudably with empathetic cooperation from the Supreme Court of India. The tribunal has used the strengthening provisions of the NGT Act to its advantage and thereby taken to task the violators of environmental law in India.
The enactment of National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 has successfully answered the need for constitution of environmental courts expressed by the Supreme Court, in Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India as,“under the existing civil law damages are determined by the civil Courts, after a long drawn litigation, which destroys the very purpose of awarding damages so in order to meet the situation, to avoid delay and to ensure immediate relief to the victims, the law should provide for constitution of tribunals regulated by special procedure for
determining compensation to victims of industrial disaster or accident, appeal against which may lie to this Court on the limited ground of questions of law.”
The decisions of the NGT demonstrate effectiveness of specialist tribunals as enabled use of special knowledge and scientific expertise provide value addition in both process and substance in resolution of environmental problemswhich have come before the NGT. Varied subjects of environmental law involving environmental clearances for developmental projects including dams, steel plants, hydro- electric projects and thermal power plants; coastal zone regulations; encroachments on the floodplains; issues relating to pollution and imposition of environmental fines are dealt with ease owing to inclusion of scientific experts on the bench.
Creation of the National Green Tribunal symbolizes a new struggle to usher the country onto the path of Sustainable Development by balancing developmental needs and preservation and conservation of the environment. It has managed to dispose a case almost every third working day and on an average hears eight cases every day. Although the National Green Tribunal received a half-hearted welcome it has taken significant initiatives in order to attain rightful implementation of environmental law. Given the National Green Tribunal‟s broad mandate, a variety of issues have been addressed. These issues range from cases challenging environmental approvals granted to power projects, to those questioning governmental permission to use forest land, to issues of air and noise pollution. While in exercise of its powers under the Act, its diligent performance has resulted in firm and radical rulings. These speaking judgments effectively assured the right to access to environmental justice. The judgments of the National Green Tribunal provide testimony of its uninhibited approach resulting in radical transformation and enrichment of Indian environmental jurisprudence through its excellent work in record time.
The following words can rightly explain the role of the National Green Tribunal in strengthening environmental jurisprudence in India,“National Green Tribunal Act is a path breaking legislation which is unique in many ways. It will provide a new dimension to environment adjudication by curtailing delays and imparting objectivity. The Tribunal, given its composition and jurisdiction, including wide powers to settle environment dispute and providing relief, compensation including restitution of environment, is envisaged to be a specialized environmental adjudicatory body having both original as well as appellate jurisdiction”.
- Introduced by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976
- The court usually passes short directions, the non-compliance of which amounts to contempt of court or fines.
- David B. Rottman, Does Effective Therapeutic Jurisprudence Require Specialized Courts and Do Specialized Courts Imply Specialist Judges? 37 COURT REV. 22 (2000)
- Scott C. Whitney, The Case for Creating a Special Environmental Court System, 14 WM. & MARY L. REV. 473 (1973)
- Asian Development Bank, (2012). Environmental Governance and the Courts in Asia . Law and Policy Reform, Brief 1, 1
(1986) 2 S.C.C. 176
(1996) 3 S.C.C. 212
(1999) 2 S.C.C. 718 & (2001) 2 S.C.C. 62
(1986) 2 S.C.C. 176
(1996) 3 S.C.C. 212
(1999) 2 S.C.C. 718
(2001) 2 S.C.C. 62
- Art. 247: Power of Parliament to provide for the establishment of certain additional Courts – Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, Parliament may by law provide for the establishment of any additional Courts for the better administration of laws made by Parliament or of any existing laws with respect to a matter enumerated in the Union List.” Read with Entry 13 of List I reads: “Participation in international conferences, associations and other bodies and implementing of decisions made thereat”.
- Land and Environment Court of New South Wales (Australia) fits the Indian conditions as its jurisdiction combines appeal, judicial review and enforcement functions.
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