As the national capital reeled under heavy smog, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday took the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to task and asked them to explain why preventive steps were not taken to control the ‘severe’ air quality in the region. Here we are sharing five special powers of NGT to make difference from other courts, in the favour of to protect our environment for our future and for sustainable development as well.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established in 2010 by the National Green Tribunal Act. It replaced National Environment Appellate Authority. It was set up to handle cases and speed up proceedings of cases related to environmental issues.
The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:
- 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;
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- Procedure for filing an Application or Appeal
Very Simple Procedure To Apply
The NGT follows a very simple procedure to file an application seeking compensation for environmental damage or an appeal against an order or decision of the Government. The official language of the NGT is English.
For every application/appeal where no claim for compensation is involved, a fee of Rs. 1000/- is to be paid. In the case where compensation is being claimed, the fee will be one percent of the amount of compensation subject to a minimum of Rs. 1000/-
Based On Principles of Natural Justice
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. Further, NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Thus, it will be relatively easier (as opposed to approaching a court) 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.
The difference between a Court and a Tribunal
The Supreme Court has answered this question by holding that “Every Court may be a tribunal but every tribunal necessarily may not be a court”. A High court for instance, where a PIL would be filed, may have wide-ranging powers covering all enacted laws (including the power of contempt) but the NGT has only been vested with powers under the seven laws related to the Environment.
You can personally argue a matter before the NGT
You can argue the matter yourself provided you are well acquainted with the facts and are reasonably knowledgeable about the law and procedures. The language of the NGT is English, and some guidelines related to dress apply. However, it would be best if a lawyer represents you since (s)he will be better equipped to argue and handle all procedural aspects.
Provision of penalty
If a project proponent or any authority does not comply with the directions contained in an NGT order, the penalty can be imprisonment for three years or fine extending to 10 crores or both. Continued failure will attract a fine of twenty-five thousand rupees per day.