One of the most recent acts/policies laid out and incorporated into the Indian Constitution as a statute to conserve and reclaim the Environment is the National Green Tribunal Act. According to the legal definition stated by The Legislate Act of the Indian Constitution, the National Green Tribunal Act – 2010 is defined as follows

“An Act to provide for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.

History and Origin

India was one of the 170 countries that participated in the Rio de Janeiro summit of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the “Earth Summit” in June 1992. The conference was a crucial landmark in Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development where the Rio declaration was signed. The Rio Declaration was an international treaty/document consisting of 27 principles intended to guide countries in future sustainable development. The declaration laid down many crucial guidelines and principles that gave organizations directions to mitigate the hazards of resource exploitation, pollution and attain sustainability for a stable future.

As a fallout of this conference, India vowed the participating states to provide judicial and administrative remedies for the victims of the pollutants and other environmental damage. There lie many reasons behind the setting up of this tribunal. After India’s move with Carbon credits, such tribunal may play a vital role in ensuring the control of emissions and maintaining the desired levels.

The National Green Tribunal

National Green Tribunal

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.

This is the first body of its kind that is required by its parent statute to apply the “polluter pays” principle and the principle of sustainable development. This court can rightly be called ‘special’ because India is the third country following Australia and New Zealand to have such a system.

The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. The tribunal is mandated to make an endeavor for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of the filing of the same. New Delhi (Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi-110001) is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal.  Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai shall be the other four place of sitting of the Tribunal.

Monitoring Public Grievances

The prime objective of the NGT as stated above is to provide justice to Environment related cases and concerns so as to reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. The NGT functions on a state of the art Centralized Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System (CPGRAMS)

CPGRAMS is an online web-enabled system developed by NIC, in association with Directorate of Public Grievances (DPG) and Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) to enable submission of grievances by the aggrieved citizens from anywhere and anytime (24×7) so that the necessary Ministries/Departments/Organisations take action for speedy and favorable redress of these grievances.

Tracking grievances are also facilitated on this portal through the system generated unique registration number. As of May 2018, there have been 5,45,461 receipts and 5,09,273 disposals.

Notable Case Studies

  • Restoration and Conservation of Yamuna

Yamuna Conservation

Yamuna river is of greatest historical and cultural importance to many major North Indian states and cities like Deli, Mathura, Agra, etc. Unfortunately, today it is also one of the most heavily polluted and degraded river stretches in the country and in the world as well. The river is so contaminated today that there is no freshwater flow below the Wazirabad Barrage on the Yamuna Canal.

The rapid growth of Delhi has resulted in the generation of huge quantities of sewage and wastewater that are not treated fully before discharge into the river. The 52 km stretch of the river from Palla to Jaitpur in the NCT of Delhi has lost its life-supporting potential. The vast floodplains, which serve as a floodway and help recharge groundwater, have also been gradually eliminated to a great extent and encroached upon by gradual reclamation by dumping solid wastes and construction of various buildings. This has reduced the flood carrying capacity, groundwater recharging capacity, and other biodiversity-related ecological functions. 

On 25 April 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said that the health of Yamuna will be affected by the proposed recreational facilities on the river. The NGT also recommended the Government to declare a 52 km stretch of the Yamuna in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as a conservation zone.

According to the judgment, in addition to the conservation zone, people spotted throwing waste into the river will be fined Rs 5,000. A separate fine of Rs 50,000 will be levied on those who dump construction debris. Furthermore, NGT has asked polluting industries to contribute to the construction of a Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) if the authorities fall short of finances.

It has also directed the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to increase the number of sewage treatment plants (STPs) and upgrade the existing ones to make them completely functional. According to a statement released by NGT “DJB is completely responsible for not checking the flow of sewage into the drains. Only 50% of the city is sewered. Raw sewage flows freely into the stormwater drains.”

  • Coal Blocks in Chhattisgarh Forests

Coal fields in Chhattisgarh Forests

The National Green Tribunal has canceled the clearance given by the then Union Environment and Forests Minister, Jairam Ramesh, to the Parsa East and Kante-Basan captive coal blocks in the Hasdeo-Arand forests of Chhattisgarh, overruling the statutory Forest Advisory Committee.

The forest clearance was given by Union environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh in June 2011, overriding the advice of the Ministry’s expert panel on the two blocks for mining by a joint venture between Adani and Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited. The blocks requiring 1,989 hectares of forestland fell in an area that the government had initially barred as it was considered a patch of valuable forest and demarcated as a ‘no-go’ area.

Under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the FAC is required to appraise projects that require forestlands and advise the environment ministry to grant approval or reject the proposals. However, the NGT noticed that the ecological value of the Hasdeo-Arand forests had been completely manhandled with when considering another coal block in the same forest belt.