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In India, the National Green Tribunal acts as an important player in Indian environmental regulation. The Supreme Court of India in its series of judgment highlighted the need of setting up of special environmental courts, the first one being in 1986 in the Oleum Gas Leak case, and by the Law Commission of India in its 186th report in 2003. Finally, the National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 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 including enforcement of any legal right relating to the 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 deal with environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
The objective of establishing a National Green Tribunal are as follows:
- To provide 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.
- Giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property
- And other related matters.
The salient features of National Green Tribunal are as follows:
- The NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- It will be relatively easier for conservation groups to present facts and issues before the NGT, including pointing out technical flaws in a project, or proposing alternatives that could minimize environmental damage but which have not been considered.
- While passing Orders, decisions, awards, the NGT will apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principles. However, it must be noted that if the NGT holds that a claim is false, it can impose costs including lost benefits due to any interim injunction.
As per Section 14 (1) The National Green Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment), is involved and such question arises out of the implementation of the enactments specified in Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. The acts listed in Schedule 1 are:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
- The Water (Prevention and Control o[Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
- The Forest (Conservation) Act,
- 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.
The Tribunal shall hear the disputes arising from the questions referred to in subsection (I) and settle such disputes and pass orders thereon.
Appellate jurisdiction under section 16 of the Act. As per Section 15 (1) of the Act, the Tribunal may, by an order, provide,-
- relief and compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage arising under the enactments specified in Schedule 1 (including accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance);
- for restitution of property damaged;
- for restitution of the environment for such area or areas, as the Tribunal may think fit.
REVIEW AND APPEAL
Orders can be appealed to the Supreme Court within 90 days.
LANDMARK NGT JUDGEMENTS
1. Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun and Ors. v. State of U.P. and Ors.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution has been interpreted to mean several things. One of such interpretations laid down by the court was that people do have a right to live in a healthy environment; right to have the enjoyment of quality of life and living and right of enjoyment of pollution free water and air for full enjoyment of life.
2. Ms. Betty C. Alvares v. The State of Goa and Ors.
Even a Foreign National Can Approach the NGT.
3. Almitra H. Patel & Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors.
A complete prohibition on open burning of waste on lands. Absolute segregation has been made mandatory in waste to energy plants and landfills should be used for depositing inert waste only and are subject to bio-stabilization within 6 months.
4. Srinagar Bandh Aapda Sangharsh Samiti & Anr. v. Alaknanda Hydro Power Co. Ltd. & Ors.
NGT has directly relied on the principle of ‘polluter pays’ and made a private entity liable to pay compensation, making them subject to a code of environmental jurisprudence.
5. Samit Mehta vs. Union of India and Ors.
This case was held to involve questions of public importance and significance of environmental jurisprudence and ‘Polluter Pays’ principle was invoked.
6. Save Mon Region Federation and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors. 
The Tribunal very proactively suspended the Environmental Clearance granted to the Project and Directed the EAC to make a fresh appraisal of the proposal for environmental clearance grant and asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest to make a separate study on the protection of the said bird.
- There is the lack proper infrastructure as it functions from two different premises.
- The body should have minimum 10 judicial and expert members, out of which only 2 judicial members and 4 expert members have been appointed till date.
- The number of environmental cases has been on the rise but due to lack of benches and infrastructure, the body is unable to pronounce its judgment on time.
- Despite various proactive support being taken by the tribunal, the pollution levels have been continuously rising over the years. This is due to lack of effective support from government both at the centre as well in states. The inefficiency of Central and State pollution control boards is another reason for it. This often results in delays in implementing the tribunal’s decision.
- The tribunal is not having suo-moto powers which also restricts its ambit in the area of the environment.
NGT has done well so far but many improvements are still required to make accessible, speedy and effective resolution of environmental disputes a practical reality. The Central and State government should work in collaboration with NGT to secure the environment with better, faster enforcement of NGT orders. In the act, there is a provision for appeal to the tribunal within a period of 6 months of origin of the cause of an environmental problem. This is small time for reflection of negative impacts of environmental changes. This shall be increased to considerable time. The government should make it more autonomous and efficient in a view to the growing concern regarding the environment and climate change. However, India is doing well when it comes to the environmental or climate change issue as compared to other developed and developing countries of the world.
– Samriddhi Pandey
Gujarat National Law University
 A.I.R. 1985 S.C. 652
 Misc Application No. 32/2014(WZ)
 JT 1999 (10) SC 332
 1999 (3) SCALE 166