THE NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT, 2010
The National Green Tribunal was established on October 18, 2010, under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources, including enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment, and providing relief and compensation for damages to persons and property, as well as matters connected with or incidental to those matters. It is a specialist body with the knowledge and experience to address environmental disputes involving multiple disciplines. The Tribunal will not be constrained by the method outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but will instead be guided by natural justice principles. The Tribunal’s Principal Place of Sitting in New Delhi, and the other four places of sitting are Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai.
The Tribunal’s dedicated environmental jurisdiction will expedite environmental justice while also reducing the burden of litigation in the higher courts. The Tribunal is required to make and make every effort to resolve petitions or appeals within six months of their submission. The Tribunal’s Principal Place of Sitting in New Delhi, and the other four places of sitting are Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai. The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, is an Act of the Indian Parliament that allows for the establishment of a special tribunal to deal with disputes involving environmental issues in a timely manner. It is based on Article 21 of the Indian Constitution (Constitution of India/Part III) Protection of life and personal liberty, which guarantees Indian individuals the right to a healthy environment.
The Tribunal’s dedicated environmental jurisdiction will expedite environmental justice while also reducing the burden of litigation in the higher courts. The Tribunal will not be constrained by the method outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but will instead be guided by natural justice principles. The tribunal is required to make and make every effort to resolve applications or appeals within six months of their filing. New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal, and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai will be the other places of sitting of the Tribunal. The NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings at first, and will follow a circuit procedure to make itself more accessible; New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal, and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai will be the other places of sitting of the Tribunal. Because the Tribunal’s regional benches in Chennai, Pune, Bhopal, and Kolkata are short on judicial and expert members, the Principal Bench in New Delhi is considering applications from other jurisdictions via video conference to address the demands of the plaintiffs.
Composition of NGT
North, Central, East, South, and West are the five zones where the Tribunal is present. The Principal Bench is based in Delhi and is located in the North Zone.
Bhopal is the seat of the Central Zone, Kolkata is the seat of the East Zone, Chennai is the seat of the South Zone, and Pune is the seat of the West Zone.
The Tribunal is led by a Chairperson who sits on the Principal Bench and consists of at least 10 judicial members and at least ten expert members.
Who is eligible to file cases with the Tribunal, and what types of cases are heard
Any person seeking relief and compensation for environmental damage involving subjects in the legislations mentioned in Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 may approach the Tribunal.
The statutes in Schedule I are:
- 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.
All civil actions involving a substantial question relating to the environment and the question fall under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. Any person who is dissatisfied with an order or direction issued by any of the Appellate Authorities under the laws stated above can also appeal it to the National Green Tribunal.
India pledged the participating governments to offer legal and administrative remedies to victims of pollution and other environmental damage at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992.
This tribunal was established for a variety of reasons. Following India’s decision to use carbon credits, such a tribunal might play a critical role in ensuring that emissions are controlled and maintained at the required levels. This is the only organization of its kind that is compelled by its parent statute to follow the polluter pays and sustainable development principles.
Following Australia and New Zealand, India is the third country to implement such a system.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) is governed by the Delhi Pollution Control Act (NGT).
Procedure of NGT
Section 19 of the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 grants the Tribunal authority to determine its own procedures. Furthermore, the Tribunal is not bound by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and is influenced by natural justice principles. The Tribunal, on the other hand, is given the authority of a civil court to carry out its duties under the Code of Civil Procedure.
Because applications to the tribunal are intrinsically different from civil litigation or writ petitions, the Tribunal has created its own set of regulations. The Tribunal identifies necessary parties as defined by the statutes listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act, 2010 and orders them to react quickly by email, saving time and money. Every party identified as a respondent in the application is not automatically served with notice.
Letter petitions that bring to light cases of significant environmental damage are heard by the Tribunal. Even in the absence of any representation from the injured party, a valid complaint is noted, and a response is requested via email, which can be filed without the assistance of an advocate.
Further instructions are sent to selected statutory authorities and/or experts identified by the Tribunal, as judged necessary, to investigate claims of environmental damage and submit a “factual and action were taken” report. An enforceable order is issued, ordering the responsible authority to take actions such as limiting pollution, recovering compensation, and pursuing legal action.
In circumstances where the Tribunal deems it suitable, select members or committees, including those made up of former high court judges, former chief secretaries, or subject area experts, may be appointed to guarantee timely execution of the Tribunal’s orders.
To make an application for compensation for environmental damage or an appeal against a government order or decision, the NGT follows a relatively easy procedure. The NGT’s official language is English.
A fee of Rs.1000/- is required for each application/appeal in which there is no demand for compensation. In the event that compensation is sought, the cost will be one percent of the amount sought, with a minimum of Rs.1000/-.
Compensation claims can be brought for the following reasons:
- Victims of pollution and other environmental damage, including incidents involving dangerous substances, are entitled to relief and compensation.
- Damaged property restitution;
- Restoration of the ecosystem in such regions as the NGT determines.
No application for compensation, relief or restitution of property or the environment will be considered unless it is submitted within five years of the date on which the cause for compensation or relief originally arose.
Principles of justice adopted by NGT
The NGT will be guided by natural justice principles rather than the procedure outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Furthermore, the NGT is not bound by the Indian Proof Act of 1872’s rules of evidence. As a result, conservation groups will find it easier to bring facts and issues to the NGT (rather than going to court), such as pointing out technical errors in a project or presenting alternatives that could reduce environmental damage but have not been examined.
The NGT will employ the concepts of sustainable development, precautionary principle, and polluter pays principles while passing orders/decisions/awards.
It should be emphasized, however, that if the NGT finds a claim to be incorrect, it can impose fines, including missed benefits as a result of any interim injunction.
Review and Appeal
There is a provision under Rule 22 of the NGT Rules for requesting a review of a decision or order of the NGT. If this fails, the NGT Order can be appealed to the Supreme Court within 90 days.
Samir Mehta vs. Union of India and Ors.
On the 12th of August 2011, a ship (M.V. Rak Carrier) carrying around 60054 metric tonnes of coal, 290 tonnes of petrol, and 50 tonnes of diesel drowned roughly 20 nautical miles off the coast of South Mumbai due to water infiltration in ballast tanks caused by technical defects.
The coal was delivered by Delta Group International on behalf of Adani Enterprises Limited. Marine contamination has resulted from the marine oil spill over the ocean, which has harmed aquatic life. Adani Enterprises had taken no measures to mitigate the pollution caused by the spill.
As a result, the Indian Coastguard stepped in and took steps to limit the damage, and the Indian government faced enormous costs as a result. The petition was submitted before the NGT by environmentalist Samir Mehta.
Samir Mehta questioned the importance of environmental jurisprudence concerning the damage created by the shipwreck and oil leakage in the body of water, adjacent zone, and thus the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, as well as the resulting consequences and liabilities. Sections 14 and 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 were used by the petitioner.
Under the Maritime Zones Act of 1976, India’s jurisdiction over herbal resources extends to the contiguous area and other financial sectors, according to the Tribunal. Respondents five, seven, and eleven (Delta Group International) have been ordered to pay a total of Rs.100 crores in environmental compensation/damages to the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India, for causing marine pollution. On three points, the Tribunal found that the delivery sinking misfortune resulted in pollution of the marine environment.
(a) The shipment, i.e. coal, is dumped into the sea;
(b) The release of the fuel oil saved onboard and the resulting oil spill.
(c) the debris of the delivery, which held the supplies.
The respondents have fulfilled their obligations and are thus liable under the Precautionary Principle, as well as liable to pay compensation to the Government of India for the pollutants they have created.
Taj Mahal Case
As the Taj Mahal was changing its color to yellow from white due to the changing environmental conditions the NGT to protect the environment and Taj laid down some points. The National Green Tribunal has ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to demolish an unlicensed restaurant near the Taj Trapezium Zone, which is adjacent to the heritage site’s eastern entrance because of the ecology around the Taj Mahal cannot be damaged.
The NGT ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to promote a plantation program to improve the environment of the Taj Mahal’s nearby mountains. The NGT had requested a statement from the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government in response to an allegation of tree felling near the Taj Mahal in an eco-sensitive zone. The tribunal was considering a petition submitted by the Taj Mahal Welfare Association through its secretary Mukesh Kumar, seeking punishment for individuals responsible for felling trees around the Taj Mahal despite a Supreme Court order. The petition association had written a one-page letter to the NGT alleging that an illegal hotel and resort was being built in Agra’s Taj Trapezium Zone, near the Taj Mahal’s eastern entrance. It said that one man had felled 20-25 trees over a 12,000-square-foot area for building accommodation and that when the issue was brought to the attention of the Agra Development Authority, it turned a deaf ear to the situation. In a separate case, the NGT had already ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that no unapproved construction projects are permitted and that no trees in the eco-sensitive zone near the heritage site are cut down.
“We dispose of this petition with a direction that the UPPCB, CPCB along with senior officers of the Taj Trapezium zone shall conduct a survey of the entire area Firozabad where glass industries are operating and collect samples. If the same is found polluting, necessary action is taken as per law,” said a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar.
The court also ordered that the investigative team “shall examine if even the use of natural gas can cause pollution and if so, what control measures have been taken.”
The National Green Tribunal is a fast-track judicial body established to resolve national environmental conflicts. So far, the National Green Tribunal has been successful in resolving 90% of the registered cases, or 28,000 out of around 31,000 overall cases. The National Green Tribunal’s handling of the cases and delivery of justice proves that the right to live in a pollution-free environment, as mentioned in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, is available to every common man. The importance of the public trust idea, which compels the government to behave as a trustee of natural resources for the benefit of all people, has been underlined as a result of this. We can see why the National Green Tribunal is viewed as “Responsive to Environmental Problems,” which is one of the features of any successful environmental court, based on what we’ve seen so far.
The tribunal’s formation was unquestionably a good step toward resolving environmental conflicts in Indian society. However, each phase has its own set of problems and difficulties. The tribunal is suffering from a serious manpower shortage and a lack of resources. It is also ill-equipped to deal with contemporary challenges such as environmental preservation and conservation.
MS. SUJAN SHAH