NGT @10 yrs

GS 2 INDIAN CONSTITUTION Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Introduction       

The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010,which enables creation of a special tribunal,National Green Tribunal(NGT) to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.

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Context:

  • October 18 was a significant day, as it marked the 10th anniversary of the National Green Tribunal.
  • Few ministries can boast of as varied, diverse, and challenging a mandate as the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
  • The downside to this vast and all-encompassing scope, which covers forests, wildlife, environment, climate change and coastal protection, is that it gives rise to an equally diverse volume of litigation.

Evolution of NGT:

  • Parliament had passed laws related to the establishment of a National Environment Tribunal (1995) and a National Environment Appellate Authority (1997).
    • Authority was intended to act primarily as a forum for challenges to environmental clearances.
    • Tribunal could award limited amounts of compensation in cases of environmental damage to life or property.
      • these did not go far enough in terms of jurisdiction, authority, impact, or autonomy.
  • Enforcement, protection and adjudication of environmental laws required a specialised and dedicated body.
    • A tribunal, staffed with judges and environmental experts.
    • to be empowered to hear these issues so that the burden on the High Courts.
    • Burden on the Supreme Court could be reduced.
  • The NGT was established on 18th October, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
    • for effective and expeditious disposal of cases.
    • relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
    • but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.

New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four places of sitting of the Tribunal.

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  • India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal.(only after Australia and New Zealand)
  • Is mandated to make disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
  • Emerged as a critical player in environmental regulation.
    • passing strict orders on issues ranging 
      • pollution
      • deforestation
      • waste management.
  • Offers a path for the evolution of environmental jurisprudence by setting up an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
  • reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts on environmental matters.
  • plays a crucial role in curbing environment-damaging activities.
    • less formal
    • less expensive
    • a faster way of resolving environment related disputes.
  • The Chairperson and members are not eligible for reappointment.
  • The NGT has been instrumental in ensuring that the Environment Impact Assessment process is strictly observed.
  • has protected the rights of tribal communities and ensured the enforcement of the “polluter pays” principle.

Challenges:

  • NGT must focus less on governance issues and more on adjudication.
  • The lack of human and financial resources has led to high pendency of cases.
  • Justice delivery mechanism is also hindered by limited number of regional benches.
  • Decisions have also been criticised and challenged.
    • due to their repercussions on economic growth and development.
  • The absence of a formula-based mechanism.
    • in determining the compensation
  • Sometimes its decisions are pointed out not to be feasible to implement within a given timeframe.
  • Two important acts – Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction.
    • restricts the jurisdiction area of NGT
    • as the crucial forest rights issue is linked directly to the environment.

Way Forward 

  • Benches have to expand.
  • Vacancies have to be filled quickly.
  • Need for more autonomy.

Conclusion        

In its next decade, the NGT must continue to remain a proactive ‘inconvenience’ to all those who, while pontificating grandiloquently on the need for environmental protection, take actions that make economic growth ecologically unsustainable.

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