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NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT, 2010 IN INDIA

 
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National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
GAMBLING LAWS
 
  The National Green Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as “NGT”) was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (hereinafter referred to as “NGT Act, 2010”), passed by the Central Government. The NGT has been established for effective and speedy disposal of cases that relate to protecting the environment, conservation of forests and other natural resources and is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes.

Petitions can be filed by aggrieved parties before the NGT seeking relief and compensation for damage caused to the environment, people and/ or property and for connected matters, which are caused due to violation of environmental laws or conditions specified while issuing permissions.

Structure

Following the enactment of the NGT Act, the Central Government vide a notification in the Official Gazette dated August 17, 2011 specified the place of sitting of the NGT. The Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in New Delhi, with zonal benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench). Each Zonal Bench has a specified territorial jurisdiction covering several States in a region. A copy of the notification providing the territorial jurisdiction of each Zonal Bench can be seen here. Section 4 of the NGT Act, 2010, also provides a mechanism for circuit benches. For example, in the case of the Western Zone bench, which is based in Pune, the Zonal Bench can decide to have sittings in other places like Ahmedabad or Panaji, if it is opinion that circumstances warrant such a sitting.

The NGT consists of three types of members, i.e. a Chairperson, a Judicial Member and a Expert Member. The Chairperson of the NGT, must be a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court. The Judicial members may be current or retired Judges of High Courts. Expert members are required to have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member and an application or a minimum of one Judicial Member and one Expert Member must be present to hear an application or appeal.

Powers

The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases where substantial questions relating to environmental issues are raised and such questions are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act, 2010. Schedule I lists the following laws on which the NGT has the power to issue orders:
  1.  The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  2.  The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  3.  The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  4.  The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  5.  The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  6.  The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  7. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
It is important to note that any violations pertaining only to these laws, or any order / decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT. It is pertinent to note that the NGT has not been vested with the power to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to the protection of forests, wildlife, etc.

In the case of Central India Ayush Drug Manufacturers Association v. State of Maharashtra, a writ petition was filed where the question before the Bombay High Court was in regards of whether the provisions of the Rule 17 of the Biological Diversity Rules, 2004 relating to equitable sharing of benefits and whether the Benefits Sharing Regulations, 2014 were ultra vires the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The Respondent had raised the contention that the matter should be heard before the NGT in view of the provisions of Section 14 of the NGT Act.

The Bombay High Court held that in case a question is raised upon the vires of a statute and the question does not fall within the purview of the statutory powers of a tribunal, then the matter cannot be decided by the tribunal. In the present case, since the Parliament has not given the NGT powers to examine the validity of the rules and regulations made under the enactments specified in Schedule I, the NGT cannot decides whether the impugned provisions are constitutional.

Therefore, specific and substantial issues related to these laws cannot be raised before the NGT. In case issues relating to these laws arise, then a person can approach the High Court in their Court or the Supreme Court through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) or file an Original Suit before an appropriate Civil Judge of the area in which the issue arises.

Procedure for filing an Application or Appeal

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 made under the laws specified in Schedule 1. The official language of the NGT is English but parties are free to file documents drawn up in Hindi. The prescribed template for filing an Application/Appeal before the NGT can be found here.

For every application / appeal where no claim for compensation is involved, a fee of Rs. 1000/- is to be paid. In case where compensation is being claimed, the fee will be one percent of the amount of compensation subject to a minimum of Rs. 1000/-. It is pertinent to note that in case of an application filed by a persons below the poverty line or indigent persons, no fees is needed to be paid.

A claim for Compensation can be made for:
  1. Relief/compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage including accidents involving hazardous substances;
  2. 2. Restitution of property damaged;
  3. 3. Restitution of the environment for such areas as determined by the NGT.
It is pertinent to note that no application will be entertained unless it is made within a period of five years from the date on which the cause for such compensation or relief first arose. The NGT, however, has the power to condone any delay in filing the case, if reasonable grounds for delay are found.

Principles of Justice adopted by NGT

The NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but is bound to follow the principles of natural justice. Section 20 of the NGT Act provides that the tribunal while making any order, decision or award shall follow the principles of sustainable development, precautionary principle and polluters pay principle. However, it must be noted that if the NGT holds that a claim is false, it can impose costs including lost benefits due to any interim injunction.

Review and Appeal

Under Rule 22 of the NGT Rules, 2011, there is a provision for seeking a Review of a decision or Order of the NGT. An application must be filed within thirty days of an order. If this fails, an NGT Order can be challenged before the Supreme Court within ninety days.
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