Context: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to plant at least 10,000 trees within a month in Uttarakhand as part of compensatory tree plantation to make up for hundreds of trees felled during construction of a road from Simli to Gwaldam.
National Green Tribunal:
- NGT is a statutory and specialised judicial body that deals with the expeditious disposal of cases related to environmental protection, and the conservation of forests and other natural resources. It was set up under the National Green Tribunal Act in 2010.
- The Tribunal is not bound by procedure under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and is guided by principles of Natural Justice.
- It draws inspiration from Part III of the Constitution of India, Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
NGT Deals in the following Acts:
- 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
Power of NGT:
- The Tribunal is vested with the powers of a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure for discharging its functions. NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications within 6 months of the filing of the same.
- It can enforce any legal right relating to the environment and order relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
- In a decision of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai v Ankita Sinha & Others, the Supreme Court of India held that NGT has the power to take suo motu cognizance of environmental issues.
- An appeal against the order/decision/ award of the NGT lies to the Supreme Court, generally within ninety days from the date of communication.
- In case of non-compliance with any direction issued by the NGT or any of its judgements, a penalty can be imposed in which the person may be given imprisonment for about three years or a fine which may extend to Rs. 10 crores or even both.
Composition of NGT:
- The NGT comprises the Chairman, the Judicial Members, and Expert Members. These members are required to hold the office for five years, and they are not eligible for reappointment.
- The Chairperson of NGT is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
Challenges of NGT:
- Two important Acts – Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction.
- Decisions of NGT have also been criticized and challenged due to their repercussions on economic growth and development. The absence of a formula-based mechanism in determining the compensation has brought criticism to the tribunal.
- Orders of NGT can be challenged in the court of law, limiting the tribunal’s role.