Powers and functions of NGT

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 India being a developing country trying to achieve number of objectives for the benefit of general public and for nation as a whole. India has number of natural resources available and it uses such resources in order of development, but control over such use and over exploitations of such resources has to be controlled. On the other hand Indian judiciary is one of the biggest judicial systems in the world and most diversified system that deals with each and every type of case and matter. But it lacks the efficiency to dispose of the case expeditiously. Environmental concern is the emerging area of concern due to over exploitation of the natural and non-renewable resources.

Also, as our Constitution guarantees “RIGHT TO HEALTHY ENVIORNMENT” under Article 21 it becomes necessary to protect the environment under some judicial authority. Therefore, National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 was enacted to satisfy the need of alternative means to deliver speedy and inexpensive justice over environmental issues. According to this Act, National Green Tribunal has been set-up as a fast track quasi-judicial body consisting of environmental experts to ensure work for protection of environment. It mainly and exclusively deals with ‘Civil Environmental Matters’ and is guided by the principles of natural justice and is not bound to strictly follow Code of Civil Procedure.

One of the most notable feature of this is that it is enjoined to fellow international organizations that recognizes the feature of “Sustainable Development”, “Polluter Pay Principle” etc. 

In Schedule I of the Act provides for following implementation of laws:

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1947
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1947
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1991
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The gossip of legal world that is coming after the gas tragedy held at Vishakhapatnam that NGT whether has power to take sup motu or not. Many discussions are on the way whether it has or not. But according to me we are the ones who created problems on the first place and then try to get it resolved in some different manner. These things are not going to work out when we will be deprived of healthy environment by the nature itself. Thus, NGT id trying help us by making laws to prevent human kind and we must obey it without thinking selflessly. Also, NGT should be given suo motu power so that certain tragic accidents can be prevented by making strict laws.

Objectives of the NGT:

There are three important objectives of the National Green Tribunal, they are:

  1. The speedy and effective disposal of all the cases related to environmental protection and other natural resources. All the previous pending cases will also be decided by the Tribunal.
  2. Its main aim is to legally enforce all the rights relating to the environment.
  3. It accounts for providing compensation and justice to all the affected people in case of any damage.

Power and Function of NGT:

  • Following are the powers vested in National Green Tribunal-
  • It has jurisdiction to decide all the matters involving substantial question regarding the environment and its protection and any legal right so connected with it.
  • This being a statutory authority exercises not only original jurisdiction but also has appellate jurisdiction.
  • It considers some principles before deciding any case such as, sustainable development, polluter pays, precautionary principle etc.
  • It can order to party or any such person to pay compensation and relief that has caused damaged to the environment and to the victims by using hazardous substances.
  • It can also order for restitution of property and restitution of the damaged environment.
  • Also, an appeal can be filed to the Supreme Court against the order of the NGT.
  • Following are the functions performed by the National Green Tribunal-
  • Being expertise in environmental issues, it has to handles all the disputes related to environment and other related multi-disciplinary issues.
  • It must provide speedy trial and speedy justice in all related matter and must help reducing the burden of same cases pending in higher courts.
  • NGT is mandated to dispose of the case within 6 Months from the date of filing of the complaint.
  • All the proceedings under NGT shall have to be accorded to the proceedings within the sections of Indian Penal Code.

Important Judgements of the NGT:

Some of the important judgements of the NGT are discussed below:-

  • Ms. Betty C. Alvares Vs. The State of Goa and Ors.

In this case a complaint was made by a foreign nationality regarding an illegal construction in Goa which was against the laws. There were two objections raised in this case. First was that complainant being a foreigner does not have right to file petition before tribunal and secondly, was that the matter was barred by limitation law. But the tribunal disagreeing from the objection raised held that this application is maintainable and foreign national can also approach the National Green Tribunal.

  • Almitra H. Patel & Ors. Vs. Union of India and Ors.

In this case PIL was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution regarding the treatment of solid waste management practice in India. The tribunal considered it a major problem and issued over 25 directions & guidelines after hearing the case. The tribunal asked all the states to strictly follow Solid Management Rules, 2016. Strict prohibition was made on openly burning of waste on land.

  • Samir Mehta Vs. Union of India and Ors.

This is one of the landmark case that created history. In this case complaint was filed by an environmentalist regarding the most serious damaged caused by the coal, fuel oil and diesel carrying ship. When the ship was wrecked a thick layer of oil was formed over the sea surface which caused a serious damaged to the marine ecosystem and aquatic world. The tribunal by applying “polluter pay principle” help that negligence was caused on the part of respondents and the tribunal also said that they had not adhered to the ‘pre-voyage principle’. Thus, are liable for the all the damage caused. 

  • Save Mon Region Federation and Ors. Vs. Union of India and Ors.

This case filed by a federation along with a social activist against the clearance given to a hydro project of worth INR 6400 crore. This project was against the Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 as it was very close to a wintering site of Black-necked Crane (a type of bird).  Seeing the danger, the tribunal held that such project must be terminated and gave order to suspend the clearance. The tribunal also asked the Ministry of Environment & Forest to prepare a case study on the protection of such birds so involved in the matter.

Conclusion:

In the changing scenarios and fast expansion of industries and major changes in majority of developmental activities new issues related to environment are coming up. In past days of Covid-19 numbers of instances are pretty much visible that human activities have already caused serious damage to the environment and some of which are that which cannot be recovered. And India being a highly populated country, it requires number of other measures in order to curb and look after such problems. Here comes the role of National Green Tribunal for environment conservation & protection. But alone it cannot change the problems we have to look after our environment ourselves as we are the one who has to survive.

Before the establishment of NGT we were already having many legislations and rule to protect environment and for forest conservation and setting up of NGT just adds feathers to this by specifically dealing with such matters. Everything has two side’s one positive and one negative but it is not just to look only negative side. Therefore, NGT is trying to do lot but we must come together to save our environment for ourselves and other alive components and also for our future generation.

Author: Pratiksha Varshney from K. R. Mangalam University, Gurugram.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India

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