Last month, South Delhi saw residents from seven residential colonies launching their own Chipko movement against the proposed felling of more than 16,000 trees for the re-development of the colonies. Citizens appealed to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the felling. The NGT directed that no trees be cut till July 19 by the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD). And the residents heaved a sigh of relief.
Be it pollution of the river Ganga, illegal sand mining in New Delhi or toxic industrial emission in Tamil Nadu, we have been hearing a lot about the NGT and its stern orders. The tribunal has been cracking the whip against environment issues in the country since 2010. What is NGT? How does it function? Can individuals like us take authorities to task through the NGT? Let’s find out in this week’s Five Ws and One H.
WHATis the National Green Tribunal?
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 to work on the disposal of cases related to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources. It is a specialised forum for effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment. People can approach the tribunal against projects that affect the environment or seek compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws.
WHATare its powers?
The NGT deals with civil cases under the seven laws related to the environment. These include 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 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
Any violation pertaining to these laws or any decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT.
HOWdoes it function?
The NGT is set up at five places, with the principal bench at New Delhi and regional benches at Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai.
Once the application is received by the NGT, the cases are to be disposed of within six months from the date of filing.
The tribunal consists of a full-time chairperson, judicial members and expert members. Each bench of the NGT will consist of at least one judicial member and one expert member. Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.
The chairperson will be a retired judge of the Supreme Court. He/she operates from New Delhi. Other judicial members are retired High Court judges.
WHOcan file cases with the NGT?
From individuals to human rights organisations, anyone can file a case against everyone –from state pollution control board to the Union government– at the NGT.
WHATis the difference between a court and a tribunal?
Tribunals are less formal, less expensive, and a faster way of resolving disputes. A tribunal has lesser powers than a court.
The proceedings of a court are presided over by a judge or a magistrate. In tribunals, the bench comprises a chairperson and other members who are experts in the relevant field.
WHATare some of the other tribunals in India?
A tribunal is a specialised court that deals with disputes relating to one particular kind of law. Some of the tribunals in India include State Sales Tax Tribunals, the Central Excise and Service Tax Tribunal (CESTAT), the Central and State Administrative Tribunal (SAT and CAT) and the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) each dealing with matters relating to State indirect taxes, central indirect taxes, administrative disputes and securities disputes respectively.
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