In one of the largest punishments for building and environment violations, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently imposed a penalty of nearly Rs. 140 crore on two builders constructing a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on Bellandur wetlands in Karnataka.
National Green Tribunal (NGT)
- The National Green Tribunal has been established 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 including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving mulch-disciplinary issues.
- The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
- The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavor for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
- The sanctioned strength of the tribunal is currently 10 expert members and 10 judicial members although the act allows for up to 20 of each.
- The Chairman of the tribunal who is the administrative head of the tribunal also serves as a judicial member.
- Every bench of the tribunal must consist of at least one expert member and one judicial member.
- The Chairman of the tribunal is required to be a
- Serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or
- Judge of the Supreme Court of India.
- Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews.
- The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.
- Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
- The Tribunal has Original Jurisdiction on matters of “substantial question relating to environment” (i.e. a community at large is affected, damage to public health at broader level) & “damage to environment due to specific activity” (such as pollution). However there is no specific method is defined in Law for determining “substantial” damage to environment, property or public health.
- The powers of tribunal related to an award are equivalent to Civil court and tribunal may transmit any order/award to civil court have local jurisdiction.
- The Act specifies that an application for dispute related to environment can be filled within six months only when first time dispute arose (provided tribunal can accept application after 60 days if it is satisfied that appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filling the application).
- Also Tribunal is competent to hear cases for several acts such as
- Forest (Conservation) Act,
- Biological Diversity Act,
- Environment (Protection) Act,
- Water & Air (Prevention & control of Pollution) Acts etc.
and also have appellate jurisdiction related to above acts after establishment of Tribunal within a period of 30 days of award or order received by aggrieved party.
- The Act says that decision taken by majority of members shall be binding and every order of Tribunal shall be final.
- Any person aggrieved by an award, decision, or order of the Tribunal may appeal to the Supreme Court within 90 days of commencement of award but Supreme Court can entertain appeal even after 90 days if appellant satisfied SC by giving sufficient reasons.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, NGT.