The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
The Parliament of India passed the National Green Tribunal Act on June 2, 2010.
Act provides for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the
‘effective and expeditious’ disposal of cases related to environmental
protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources, the
enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment, giving relief and
compensation for damages to persons and property, and connected matters. The
Act contains clauses on the jurisdiction, powers and proceedings of the tribunal,
and penalties for contravention.
19-page law was passed keeping in mind the decisions taken at the United
Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, and the
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in
1992. India was a participant at both these conferences. Further, the right to
a healthy environment ‘has been construed’ as part of Article 21 of the
Constitution of India, which mandates the right to life.
What does the Act say about establishing a National Green Tribunal?
This Act empowers the central government to establish a National Green Tribunal (NGT) through a notification in The Gazette of India.
What shall be the tribunal’s composition?
The NGT shall consist of a Chairperson, and – as the central government may notify – between 10 and 20 Judicial Members and Expert Members, each. The Chairperson may invite one or more persons to assist the tribunal in a case, if they have specialised knowledge and experience in that particular area.
What are the qualifications for membership of the tribunal?
A person shall not be qualified to be the Chairperson unless they are, or have been, a judge in the Supreme Court, or a chief justice in a High Court.
A person shall not be qualified to be a Judicial Member unless they are, or have been, a judge in the Supreme Court, or a judge or a chief justice in a High Court.
A person shall not be qualified to be an Expert Member unless they have a Master of Science and Doctorate degrees, or a Master of Engineering or Master of Technology degree with 15 years of experience in the ‘relevant field’, including five years of practical experience in the field of environment and forests. A person may be appointed as an Expert Member if they have 15 years of administrative experience, including five years of experience in handling environmental matters in a central or state government, or a ‘reputed’ national- or state-level institution.
What will the jurisdiction of the tribunal cover?
The NGT shall have jurisdiction over all civil cases where there is a substantial question relating to the environment – including the enforcement of any legal right related to the environment – if the question pertains to the implementation of the laws mentioned in Schedule I of the Act.
Schedule I contains seven laws: 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.
What does the Act say about relief, compensation and restitution of persons?
The NGT may pass an order to provide relief and compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage under the laws specified in Schedule I. It may pass an order for the restitution of damaged property, or the environment for such area or areas as the tribunal may think fit.
When does the tribunal have appellate jurisdiction?
Section 16 states that certain decisions made, or orders passed by, state governments or authorities appointed under the Acts listed in Schedule I, can be appealed against in the tribunal.
Any person aggrieved by an order or decision of the tribunal may file an appeal with the Supreme Court of India.
What does the Act say about relief or compensation in certain cases?
If someone other than a ‘workman’ has died or been injured, or if property has been damaged as a result of an accident, or the adverse impact of an activity under any enactment specified in Schedule I, the person responsible shall be liable to pay such relief or compensation for the death, injury or damage as may be determined by the tribunal.
If the death, injury or damage cannot be attributed to any single activity, but is the combined effect of several such activities, the NGT may apportion the liability for relief or compensation amongst those responsible for such activities on an equitable basis.
In case of an accident, the tribunal shall apply the ‘principle of no fault’.
What principles shall the tribunal adhere to?
While passing any order, decision or award, the tribunal shall apply the principles of sustainable development, and the ‘precautionary’ and ‘polluter pays’ principles.
Focus and Factoids by Kiran Mohandas Menon.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
02 Jun, 2010