The concerns related to the environment increase day by day making it vital to keep a check on these problems legally. A crucial issue is related to sustainable development. It is important to curb environmental pollution and other similar issues existing worldwide. After having several cases and facing major problems regarding the environment, it was decided that a tribunal functioning solely for the environment was required. Known as the National Green Tribunal, it was constituted in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act and has its authority all over the country.
Cases such as the M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India (AIR 1987 SC 965) brought substantial changes in the structures of the court in relation to the environment in India. The establishment of environmental courts in India was advised by the Law Commission of India in 2003 which took several years to implement.
NGT Bill, 2009
After facing countless difficulties linked to the environment, the National Green Tribunal Bill was finally passed by the Lok Sabha on the 31st of July 2009. The Lok Sabha referred the bill to the standing parliamentary committee of science and technology, forests and environment for examinations. Prior to the passing of the bill, numerous meetings were held by the committee in accordance with the ministry of environment and the views of many experts were heard as well. There were many adjudicators also included in the same. After having it as a need, the bill finally passed in the year 2010.
Formation and Establishment
The National Green Tribunal was formed and established under the National Green Tribunal Act in 2010. It aims at looking after cases related to the environment such as water, air, soil and animals. The pollution caused in rivers and other water bodies also comes under this bill. Article 21 includes the Right to Clean Environment as an unremunerated right under it, so the environment comes under the basic well-being of a person. This was also the reason for the enactment of the NGT Act.
It is known that the NGT is a quasi-judicial body. It does not function as a normal court but has powers similar to them. It eases the workload of normal courts and works specifically for hearing matters related to the environment. The matters can appeal to higher courts and their decisions are considered as binding. The NGT works in zonal criteria in different zones and the matters in those areas come under the mentioned courts.
Members of the Tribunal
The principal authority of the tribunal lies in the hands of the Chairperson. The individual appointed as Chairperson must have either been a Judge in the Supreme Court of India or Chief Justice of any High Court in India. Additionally, a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 full-time judicial members were required in the tribunal. The qualifications for the same require the person to have been a Judge in the Supreme Court or High Court in India.
Furthermore, there must be a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 expert members. The member must have earned a master degree in Science or must have 15 years of experience in the related field. Post their retirement, these experts are not eligible to take on work in the tribunal until 2 years of retirement.
All members of the tribunal are appointed by the Central Government. For Chairman, consultation is taken from the Chief Justice of India. For other members, the Selection Committee is formed for taking consultation. These members can be removed by the Central Government for infringement of the orders or any of the rules.
The Objectives of NGT
The NGT was established to replace the previous prevailing authority. The main objective to establish and bring the NGT in function are as follows:
1. To reduce the burden on other courts
2. To have a specialized body look after the environmental issues.
3. To have a less expensive system.
4. To have a speedy trial.
5. To impose penalties as required.
6. To improve the quality of decisions
There are innumerable other reasons related to the ones mentioned above. The tribunal works as per the provisions of the NGT Act and both work in accordance to achieve required goals and provide justice.
Jurisdictions of the NGT
The tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases related to the environment. The NGT Act states the jurisdiction of the Tribunal under schedule 1. Some acts listed in the schedule include:
● The Water (prevention and control of pollution) Act 1974
● The Water ( prevention and control pollution) cess Act, 1977
● The Forest Conservation Act
● The Air ( prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1981,
● The Biological Diversity Act 2002
● The Public Liability Insurance Act 1991 and;
● The Environment Protection Act of 1986.
The jurisdiction lies across the country wherever cases take place. People are free to register their complaints in the tribunal. The cases are heard as per the zones specified.
The National Green Tribunal being similar to a Court hears matters related to the environment and works on it accordingly. The jurisdiction of the Tribunal is limited to environmental issues because the expansion of the jurisdiction may cause chaos in the judicial functions of the other courts. The members that are in connection with the Tribunal are decided by having strict scrutiny for them. The tribunal works in accordance with the Act and any amendments and changes that come in the Act as well. The tribunal aims at better sustainable development for the upcoming generations of the country.