This article on ‘National Green Tribunal: Powers and Functions‘ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The National Green Tribunal(NGT) is a Quasi-Judicial Authority established under the National Green Act, 2010 by the Parliament of India. It’s a Special Tribunal established to entertain cases and disputes related to Environmental Law and to settle these cases speedily. It is a part of the Environment Law and is inspired by Part III, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Article 21 speaks about the Protection of Life and Personal Liberty which also includes within its ambit the Right to a Healthy Environment.
After Australia and New Zealand, India is the Third Country to have such a separate Tribunal to deal with disputes related to Environment. It was established with keeping in mind Rio Conference, in 1992. It is also to be noted that the Delhi Pollution Control Committee(DPCC) is working under the National Green Act. It has replaced the National Environment Appellate Authority.
Composition of The National Green Tribunal
The tribunal is situated at 5 places throughout the country, with its principal place being in New Delhi and its Benches being located at Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai. Each Bench is tasked with looking after a specific area as follows: New Delhi(North), Bhopal(Central), Pune(West), Chennai(South), and Kolkata(East). A Provision for the establishment of Circuit Benches is also made in the National Green Act, of 2010 and can be established as and when needed.
The Tribunal comprises the following bodies:
- The Chairperson
- The Expert Members
- The Judicial Members
The Appointment of the Chairperson/the Expert Members/ the Judicial Members is governed by Section 6 of the National Green Act, 2010.
The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. A minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 members as full-time Expert Members and Judicial members are needed in the tribunal. They all are appointed by the Central Government’s appointed Selection Committee. These members can hold office for 5 years and cannot stand for re-election or re-appointment.
The Qualification to act as Chairperson/Judicial Members/Expert Member are as follows:
- A person who is or was a Judge of The Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court.
- A person who is or was a Judge of The High Court.
- Experience and qualification in the field of science and technology or real-world experience in environment-related matters.
The appointment of the Chairperson/the Expert Members/the Judicial Members is governed by Section 7 of the National Green Act, 2010. They all are appointed for 5 Years and are not eligible for re-appointment or re-election.
- The Chairperson and the Judicial Members, if he has been a Judge of the Supreme Court cannot hold office after the age of 70.
- If they have been the Judge of a High Court, they cannot hold office after the age of 67.
- The Expert Members cannot hold office after the age of 65.
The Provisions for Resignation, Salaries and Allowances, Removal and Suspension, Vacancy and Appointment for Staff and Tribunal are mentioned in Sections 8,9,10,11, and 14 respectively.
Powers of the National Green Tribunal
Since its establishment, the National Green Tribunal has become a vital organisation to deal with cases and disputes related to the environment and has given major judgments and orders on waste management, deforestation, and pollution.
The powers of NGT are as follows:
- Through the mechanism of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the tribunal has developed a system for the development, growth, and progress of environmental jurisprudence.
- It helps to reduce the caseload of High Courts based on matters of the environment.
- It works in a manner that is comparatively less formal and inexpensive to deliver a speedy solution.
- It ensures strict compliance with the process of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and curtails the acts and activities which damage the environment.
- The NGT entertains Civil cases and provides relief in disputes related to the 7 laws related to the environment.
- A Variation has also been introduced where if the orders of the tribunal are not followed, the tribunal has the power, to impose a strict penalty for non-obedience to its orders.
- The National Green Tribunal by order can give the following:
- Relief and Compensation to the victims of Environmental and Pollution injury. It also includes within its ambit the accidents sustained while Hazardous Substances are being handled.
- Reimbursement of a damaged property either by way of return of property or by way of return in the form of monetary compensation.
- Reimbursement of the areas of the environment for which the tribunal may think fit.
Functions of the National Green Tribunal
- The National Green Tribunal is a body that has the know-how and experience to handle environment-related disputes and also comprises issues of a multi-disciplinary nature.
- The Tribunal is to follow the principles of Natural Justice and is not bound to follow the procedure as laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC). It has the power to regulate its procedure by itself.
- The Tribunal is bound to make all efforts to dispose of any appeals/ applications within 6 months from the date of filing of the appeals/ applications.
- The National Green Tribunal is a unique body, one of its kind which is required by the National Green Act (Parent Statute/Act) to use The Principle of Polluter Pays and Sustainable Development.
- It helps to reduce the caseload of High Courts based on matters of the environment.
- The Tribunal is also not to conduct all of the proceedings per the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- From the date on which the cause of compensation arose, the suit can be filed within 5 Years from the same. It is also to be noted that the period of filing the suit can be extended for a further period of a maximum of 60 days by the tribunal if sufficient cause for delaying the same has been shown to the tribunal.
- The Tribunal is to conduct all of the proceedings per the sections of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
- The Tribunal has the power to while settling cases, and act as a Civil Court.
Limitations of The National Green Tribunal
- Some of the acts which directly concern the environment and forest are not within the jurisdiction of the tribunal which hampers its functioning. The acts are as follows:
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
- The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- A minority of the decision’s given by the tribunal due to their effect on economic growth and development have also been criticised.
- There is no set formula for the calculation of the compensation claimed by the victims of the accidents.
- It has been observed that sometimes the decisions which the tribunal delivers are not fully per the respective stakeholders.
- The tribunal is not that well-off financially which results in the tribunal not being able to dispose of the cases within the mandated period of 6 months.
- The limitation of benches is yet another matter which acts as a barrier in the mechanism of delivery of justice by the tribunal.
After the industrial revolution, there has been a fast and rapid expansion of activities of development in the country, and in this process, the country has faced a huge number of environmental issues. There are numerous instances where human activity has caused so much damage to the environment, that it become irreversible.
India is among those nations that give high importance to the conservation and protection of the environment. In this regard, several statutes, and acts have already been enacted that deal with Water Pollution, Air Pollution, Forest Protection, Environment Protection, Public Liability Act, and Biological Diversity Act respectively. The enactment of the National Green Tribunal Act, of 2010 has added another feather to the group of acts enacted to deal with environmental pollution.
The enactment of the National Green Tribunal Act after the horrific Bhopal Gas Tragedy is hailed to be a superb act in the right direction, however, it is criticised on the account of the fear of delivering the same judgments and orders as its predecessor bodies. An appeal can be preferred against the decision of the National Green Tribunal to the Supreme Court of India within 90 days from the date of the announcement of the order vis-à-vis the case.
- National Green Tribunal Act,2010, India, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Green_Tribunal_Act (Last Modified April 27, 2022).
- National Green Tribunal (NGT), India, available at: https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/concepts-in-news-national-green-tribunal/ (Visited on October 29, 2022).
- Powers and Functions of National Green Tribunal, available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/powers-functions-national-green-tribunal/ (Visited on October 29, 2022)