An Introduction to the National Green Tribunal

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An Introduction to the National Green Tribunal

By Nakul Sharma

A tribunal in India dedicated to environmental jurisdiction.

N.G.T. is a national level environmental court established by the parliament of India for dealing cases of environment & forest related matters. For effective & expeditious disposal of cases relating to Environment Protection, Conservation of Forests & other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and giving relief & compensation for damages to persons and property.

It is a specialised body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues. N.G.T. is guided by the Principles of Natural Justice…

Initially the N.G.T. was proposed to be setup at five places of sitting & will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible. New Delhi is the principal place for sitting of the Tribunal.

Current Position:

  • Principal Bench (NORTH)- Hon’ble Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar, (Present Chairperson).

  • Zonal Benches – East – Kolkata ; West- Pune ; North – Delhi ; South- Chennai & Central – Bhopal.

  • Circuit Benches – Shimla, Shillong, Jodhpur, Kochi.

  •  What is Polluter Pays Principle?

P.P.P. means the person who is responsible for creating pollution, should be made financially responsible for the damages caused to others. This is also referred as E.P.R. { Extended Polluter Responsibility}.

” Vellore citizens welfare forum Vs Union of India & Ors. “

” Polluter Pays Principle has been interpreted by this Court means that the absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also the cost of restoring the environmental degradation. Polluter is laible to pay the cost to the individual sufferers as well or the cost of reserving the damaged ecology.”

  • Is Tribunal A Court?

Tribunal is an independent specialised expert body having the combination of judges as well as experts. The jurisdiction of Tribunal is wider than the jurisdiction of courts as the tribunal can decide the controversy involving the questions of law or questions of fact or both & can also check the veracity of opinion of experts.

Courts can exercise the powers of judicial review when illegality or irrationality or impropriety is found in the decision-making process. Even in appellate jurisdiction, the tribunal being the first adjudicatory forum can entertain the mixed questions of law & facts as against the courts which can interfere only if it involves substantial question of law.

  • Can A matter falling within the jurisdiction of the N.G.T.  be raised before a civil court?

Section 29 of N.G.T. Act, 2010 – bars a civil court to entertain any matter which falls within the jurisdiction of the National Green Tribunal. It also specifically bars a civil court to grant an interim injunction in such matters.

  • History of Environmental Tribunals:

In the judgement of Indian Council for “Enviro-Legal Action Vs Union of India” in which THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA observed that “Environmental Courts having civil & criminal jurisdiction must be established to deal with the environmental issues in a speedy manner”

The Parliament of India enacted two specific laws – THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT TRIBUNAL, 1995 for adjudicating on claims and compensation for victims of environmental disasters & THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT APPELLATE AUTHORITY ACT, 1997.

The National Environment Tribunal never came into functioning while, the National Environment Appellate Authority functioned only for three years.

This issue was also considered by THE LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA & dealt at length in the 186th Report in September, 2003.

REPORT :

”  Thus these two National Environment Tribunals are today unfortunately non-fictional. One had only jurisdiction to award compensation & never actually came into existence. The other came into existence but after the term of the first Chairman ended, none has been appointed.”

Law Commission was guided by the model of Environmental Court established in New Zeland and The Land & Environmental Court of New South Wales and also the observations of the Supreme Court of India in four judgements :

MC MEHTA VS UNION OF INDIA (AIR 1987 SC 965-967)

INDIAN COUNCIL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL-LEGAL ACTIONS VS UNION OF INDIA (AIR 1996 (3) SCC 212)

AP POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD VS MV NAYADU (AIR 1999 (2) SCC 718)

AP POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD VS MV NAYADU (AIR 2001 (2) SCC 62)

The commission also considered the reference made in the Nayadu I case to the idea of ‘multi-faceted environmental court’ with judicial, technical & scientific inputs as formulated by Lord Wolf in England recently & to Environmental Courts Legislations as they existed in Australia, New Zeland and other countries. This report also adopted the practice of the Environmental Courts in Australia and New Zeland which functions as appellate court against the order passed under the corresponding Water Acts, Air Acts & Noise Acts and various environment related acts. They hold all the powers of a Civil Court, some even have powers of Criminal Courts.

  • Objective of National Green Tribunal ACT, 2002

  1. Speedy environmental justice.

  2. Reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.

  3. Inexpensive justice.

  4. Strict penalty for non-observation of the order of the tribunal.

  • Current Judgements – NGT INDIA

Five years after the shipping carrier -M V Rak sank 20 nautical miles off the South Mumbai coast in the Arabian Sea causing marine pollution, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday slapped Rs 100 crore penalty on the Qatar-based Delta Navigation as “environmental compensation” for dumping the cargo in the sea and then failing to take any precautionary measures.

The Tribunal also imposed Rs5 crore on Adani Enterprises Ltd to whom 60,000 metric tonnes of coal was to be delivered for a thermal plant in Gujarat in the above said case.

“There was definite pollution of marine environment by the oil spill. The sunken ship along with its cargo caused pollution and is a continuous source of marine pollution. It needs to be removed from the seabed of the contiguous zone of the Indian water at the earliest..,” said the principal bench of NGT headed by justice Swatantra Kumar in a 223-page judgment.

Referring to international conventions, the NGT observed that, “no party from any country in the world has the right to sail an unseaworthy ship to the contiguous and exclusive economic zone of India.”

Ship M V Rak , which was carrying coal, fuel oil and diesel, owned by Delta Navigation whose parent company is Qatar-based Delta Group International sank in Arabian sea on August Four, 2011.The ship was carrying around 290 tonnes of fuel oil, 50 tonnes of diesel on-board and 60,000 metric tonnes of coal for Adani Enterprises Ltd’s Gujarat thermal power plant.

  • What is the procedure for filling application or appeal ?

To be presented in FORM I along with IPO or DD of minimum RS 1000/- (Where compensation is not calimed) by the applicant or Appellant in person, or by an agent of by a duly authorised legal practitioner to the Registrar or any other officer authorised by Registered Post with acknowledgement due and send to the place of sitting.

Application for relief and compensation must be presented in FORM II, accompanied by a fee equivalent to 1% of the amount of compensation claimed, subject to minimum of Rs 1000/-

All Appeals or Applications must be submitted in the following two compilations:-\

  1. Application or Appeal with the impugned order, if any.

  2.  All other documents and annexures referred to in the application or appeal, in paper book form.

  • Is there any time limitation for relief, compensation or restitution ?

Within five years from the date on which the cause of action for such compensation first arose. Provided that the tribunal may, if it satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause to file the application within the said period, allow if a further period not exceeding sixty days.

  • When can compensation and relief can be claimed?

A. Death

B. Permanent, temporary, total or partial disability or other injury or sickness;

C. Loss of wages due to total, partial, permanent or temporary disability;

D. Medical expenses incurred for treatment of injuries or sickness;

E. Damages to private properties.

F. Expenses incurred by the Govt. or any local authority in providing relief, aid and rehabilitation to the affected persons;

G. Expenses incurred by the Govt. for any administrative and legal action or to cope with any harm or damage including compensation for environmental degradation and restoration of the quality of environment.

H. Loss of Govt. or local authority arising out of, or connected with, the activity causing damage;

I. Claims on account of any harm. Damage or destruction to the fauna including milch and draught animals and aquatic fauna;

J. Claims on account of any harm. Damage or destruction to flora including aquatic flora, corps, vegetables, trees and orchards;

K. Claims including cost of restoration on account of any harm or damage to environment including pollution of soil, air, water, land and eco-system;

L. Loss and destruction of any property other than private property;

M. Any other claim arising out of, or connected with, any activity of handling of hazardous substance.

Nakul Sharma is a 2nd Year LL.B. Student at Pacific School of Law, PAHER University (Udaipur).

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References :

  1. DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS 24-08-2016 http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-ngt-slaps-rs-100-crore-penalty-in-the-2011-oil-spilling-case-2248281
  2. National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
  3. Commentary on NGT by Dutta Ritwick (Author), Sanjeet Purohit (Author).
  4. National Green Tribunal Information Booklet.
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