Environment Laws

Role of the National Green Tribunal in Environment Protection

calendar09 Mar, 2023
timeReading Time: 5 Minutes
Role of the National Green Tribunal in Environment Protection

Due to the rapidly growing environmental concerns and expeditious disposal of cases relating to that, National Green Tribunal (NGT) was formed to fulfil the long-felt need. The National Green Tribunal was established on 18.10.2010 under NGT Act 2010[1] for effective and speedy remedy in cases related to environmental protection, forest conservation, and other natural resources, including enforcement of any environmental right and giving compensation and relief for damages to the person and property and for matters connected with them. The NGT works on the principle of ‘polluter pays’ and ‘sustainable development”.

The tribunal’s jurisdiction in environmental issues that are linked to the implementation of laws which is listed in Schedule I of the Act will provide immediate environmental justice within the first six months of filing a petition and helps to minimise the burden of litigation in higher courts although the Central Pollution Control Board promotes cleanliness of streams and other water bodies and aims to improve the air quality.

National Green Tribunal has the right to hear all civil cases relating to the environment that are linked to the implementation of all the laws which is listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act 2010, which is as follows:

  1. The Water (P&CP) Act 1974
  2. The Air (P&CP) Act 1981
  3. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
  4. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  5. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
  6. The Water (P&CP) Cess Act 1977
  7. The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991

Note: NGT has not been vested with the power to hear any issues relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA) 1972 and the Indian Forest Act 1927, and laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.

Origin of National Green Tribunal in India

Expansion of Industries and the beginning of developmental activities in the country, a large number of environmental matters or issues have begun to come up. There are several cases in which these human activities caused damage to the environment that cannot be recovered, i.e. Bhopal Gas Tragedy. So, The Supreme Court highlighted the difficulty faced by judges in adjudicating complex cases and emphasised on the need to set up a specialised environmental court. Also, the Supreme Court highlights the difference between court and tribunal by highlighting that “Every Court may be tribunal, but every tribunal necessarily may not be a court”. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro, where India pledged to provide judicial and administrative remedies for the suffered victims due to different pollutants and other environmental damage. In the year 2010, the National Green Tribunal was established under NGT Act 2010. It also replaced the National Environment Appellate Authority.

Benches of National Green Tribunal in India

India became the third country in the world to set up this specialised tribunal for the environment after Australia and New Zealand.

Due to the Enactment of the NGT act, New Delhi has been chosen as the principal Bench or headquarters of the tribunal and has other sittings in Bhopal (Central zone bench), Pune (Western Zone Bench), Kolkata (Eastern Zone Bench) and Chennai (Southern Zone Bench) as well.

Composition: Chairperson is the head of a tribunal that sits in the principal Bench and has at least ten judicial members and expert members.

NGT Judgement for Environmental Protection

The landmark NGT judgment for environment protection that created history is as follows:

  • Samir Mehta Vs UOI and Ors – The case is related to pollution caused due to ship sinking and oil spill in the Territorial Waters, Contiguous Zone and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India and the liabilities and consequences arising thereof. In this case ‘Polluter Pays’ principle was invoked.

Judgement: Respondent was asked to pay a compensation of Rs. 5 crores under Maritime Zones Act, 1976.

  • Almitra H. Patel vs UOI and OrsMrs Amrita Patel had filed a Public interest litigation under Article 32. The petitioner sought improvement in the practices for the treatment of solid waste.

Judgement: Strictly implementation of the Solid Management Rules, 2016. Absolute segregation has been made mandatory in waste-to-energy plants, and landfills should be used for depositing inert waste only and are subject to bio-stabilisation within six months. A complete prohibition on the open burning of waste on lands.

NGT v/s CPCB

The fundamental difference between NGT & CPCB are as follows:

S.No. NGT CPCB
1 Established by an Act 2010 Created by executive order of the Government in 1974
2 Specialised Judicial Body Statutory Organisation
3 Provide effective and speedy remedies in cases related to environmental protection and conservation of other natural resources. Advising the Central and State authority on matters related to prevention, improvement, control, and abatement of Air and Water pollution.

Powers and Jurisdiction That Comes Under NGT

In the past few years, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has developed a statutory organisation for the regulation of the environment and passed strict orders on issues such as pollution, deforestation, waste management, etc. The major powers are as follows:

  • The establishment of NGT took away the right of the civil court to declare cases regarding environmental issues. So, now it’s compulsory to file the case before the NGT.
  • Even a PIL can’t be filed in the State High Court as all environmental litigation will be dealt with only by the five benches of NGT.
  • All the principles, such as sustainable development, precautionary principles, and polluter pays, are considered by the tribunal before deciding any case.
  • It ensures the strict observation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.
  • To ensure proper implementation of environmental-related laws that are listed in Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act.

Penalties levied by NGT

NGT is strict in case of non-compliance with its orders. It can cause a penalty which can impose imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs. 10 crores which may also extend.

For Instance, Blowout of the Baghjan oil well fire (May 2020) was reported by a government-owned company Oil India Limited (OIL), at one of its gas-producing wells in Tinsukia (Assam) near the Dibru Saikhowa National Park. This resulted in three deaths, widespread local evacuations, and environmental damage to the surrounding National Park and Wetland. Furthermore, the chemicals discharged due to the disaster are said to have devastated land and plants, are dangerous to people’s health, and have harmed the livelihoods of individuals who work primarily in agriculture, fishing, and animal husbandry.

Reason: OIL had disobeyed the Central Pollution Control Board’s directions (CPCB)

Penalty: Rs 25 Lakh to 173 families and Rs 20 lakh to 439 families identified by the district administration.

Conclusion

National Green Tribunal was set up with the aim of being the protector of the environment and fulfilling sustainable development goals of a clean environment. It has the power to direct the projects in a certain manner to minimise environmental impacts. Due to its expertise in the environmental domain, NGT processes environment-related cases in a swift way and lessens the burden of courts. NGT maintains the connection between the project proponent and environmental agencies by releasing orders and judgments. So, if the project proponent does not abide by any laws or orders released by NGT related to the protection of the environment, they may open themselves to many legal issues in the future.

Also Read:
Overview Of EIA For Man-Made Fibre Manufacturing
Moef&CC Guidelines On EIA For River Valley Projects
Environmental Clearance Process In India: A Complete Outlook

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