National Green Tribunal-10th anniversary- Critical Analysis

Context :  October 18, 2020, marked the 10th anniversary of the National Green Tribunal.  There have been articles in various newspapers regarding the same. 

Details : 

  • Part III of the Constitution of India through Article 21 emphasizes on Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • 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.
  • It enforces any legal right relating to the environment and orders relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
    • Note : NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but guided by principles of natural justice.
  • NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications within 6 months of the filing of the same.
  • Evolution of the idea of NGT :
    • In judgments such as M.C. Mehta vs Union Of India (1986), the then Chief Justice of India had suggested to set up Environmental Courts.
    • Parliament had passed laws related to the establishment of a National Environment Tribunal (1995) and a National Environment Appellate Authority- However, these did not go far enough in terms of jurisdiction, authority, impact, or autonomy and created a need for a specialised and dedicated body for enforcement, protection, and adjudication of environmental laws.
    • Finally the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 enabled the creation of this special tribunal

Challenges :

  • The jurisdiction area of NGT is curtailed as 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.
    • It dampens its functioning as the crucial forest rights issue is linked directly to the environment.
  • The lack of human and financial resources has led to high pendency of cases – which undermines NGT’s very objective of disposal of appeals within 6 months.
  • Supreme Court,  in the L Chandrakumar case, opined that Tribunals could not be effective substitutes of High Courts under Articles 226 and 227. This eventually leads to cases reaching the judiciary by way of appeal.
  • The justice delivery mechanism is also hindered by a limited number of regional benches.

Solutions :

  • Increasing the regional benches
  • Taking up capacity building by filling specialised vacancies
  • There is a need for the central and state governments to work in collaboration with the NGT for balancing between environment & economy

In the present era, equilibrium between development and environment is of utmost importance.NGT should not been seen as obstacle to development but a way to sustainable development“