Day 30 – Q 1.Discuss the mandate of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). What are the challenges associated with the efficient functioning of the NGT? Examine.
1. Discuss the mandate of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). What are the challenges associated with the efficient functioning of the NGT? Examine.
राष्ट्रीय हरित अधिकरण (NGT) के जनादेश पर चर्चा करें। एनजीटी के कुशल कामकाज से जुड़ी चुनौतियां क्या हैं? जांच करें।
National Green Tribunal was established in 2010 under National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 to dispose of cases having environmental ramification. Its headed by retired judge of supreme court or being chief justice of high court and almost 20 experts and 20 judicial members.
Mandate of NGT
- To dispose of cases dealing with any environment law violation, conservation of forests and natural resources.
Eg. The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues including the following:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- Recommend penalties and fine.
- Recommend policies for environment protection.
- Disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the application.
- Enforcement of any legal right relating to environment
- Giving relief and compensation for damages
- Has power of civil courts.
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is guided by principles of natural justice.
- Administrative problems: A less obvious but critical aspect of the NGT’s efficient functioning, which can significantly impact the decision-making process and access to justice, concerns the administrative support supplied by the Government of India. The absence of basic infrastructure facilities and human resources has led to resignations of three judicial members and the intervention of the Supreme Court in 2012.
- Section 4 of the NGT Act, 2010, prescribes that the tribunal shall consist of a full time chairperson and not less than 10 judicial and 10 expert members but subject to maximum of twenty full-time judicial and expert members. But in the last nine years, the NGT has never got the minimum strength of ten judicial and ten expert members to address the increasing number of environmental litigations across the country.
- Hearings through video conference put enormous cost and burden on clients. Hearings are adjourned or listed in an unfashionable manner, without giving sufficient time to lawyers and clients to present their matter. The great majority of cases are not resolved within the stipulated time-period of six months.
- The act has limited the jurisdiction of tribunal to “substantial question of environment” i.e. situations where ‘damage to public health is broadly measurable’ or ‘significant damage to environment’ or relates to ‘Point Source of Pollution’. The question related to environment can’t left on discretion of an individual especially on subjective assessment whether environment damage is substantial or not.
- NGT Jurisdiction is confined to where community at large is affected by specific form of activity such as pollution. It excludes individual or Group of individuals who deserves as much protection as to Community at Large.
- The qualifications for a technical member are more favorable to bureaucrats (especially retired) and to irrelevant technocrats. The act considers higher degrees in Science, Technology and Administrative experience but no provision for ecologist, sociologist, environmentalist, civil society or NGO, etc.
- The Act is silent on provision that who is liable to pay compensation or cost of damage to public health or environment. The MOEF state that it shall be notified in rules but this substantial concern shall be included in act only not on will of executive.
- The Act doesn’t provide jurisdiction to Tribunal over all laws related to environment such as Wildlife Protection Act (1972), Indian Forest Act 1927, Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights Act) 2005 and various other state legislation’s.
- NGT though is regular in scheduling hearings, typically with time gaps of two to three weeks between two consecutive hearings. Despite the high percentage of cases being disposed of, there is also an increasing backlog of cases in NGT.
- NGT’s critics have also questioned the “lack of environmental finesse” of its expert members. “Usually, the expert members are experts of one particular field and not of environment as a whole. For instance, an expert member who has been working on forests for many years would not be able to comprehend the issues arising out of industrial pollution. Thus, the judgments are vague and not relevant in some cases.
- There are also serious challenges as far as implementation of the NGT orders is concerned. For example, Rule 35 (1) of the Act specifies that the compensation amount as ordered by the tribunal should be remitted to the authority of the Environmental Relief Fund within a period of 30 days from the date of order or award or as otherwise ordered by the tribunal. Invariably, it is observed that the polluters don’t abide by this rule. Second, the NGT orders are increasingly challenged in the Supreme Court, where a heavy penalty has been imposed by the tribunal. Third, there is no institutional mechanism to ensure that the environmental regulatory authorities comply with the orders of the tribunal.
- Strengthening it by giving more powers and by investing in itsinfrastructure.
- Judicial review is an important power that must be given to NGT.
- Other environment-related laws must be included within NGT’S ambit.
- NGT also needs to put certain systems in place for transparent decision-making.
- NGT needs to establish principles and criteria to estimate fines, damages and compensation.
- It should also identify institutions and experts who can help it to scientifically estimate environmental damages/compensation/fines on a case-to-case basis.
- NGT must put internal checks and balances for efficient and transparent delivery of justice.
- Suomotu jurisdiction has to be an integral feature of NGT for better and effective functioning.
- There is a need for the central and state governments to work in collaboration with the NGT for an effective outcome.
Countries like New Zealand and Australia, which have specialized environmental courts, quite regularly restructure administrative and financial support for the court to increase efficiency and reduce costs, and in an ideal world, create benefits of true cost-efficiency. The government of India also needs to provide adequate financial and human resources — if it does not want the NGT to wither away.