National Green Tribunal (NGT): Meaning, Advantages and Obstacles

It is a specialised organisation established under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 to dispose of environmental protection. The preservation of forests and other natural resources matters effectively and quickly. With the creation of the NGT, India became the first developing nation and the third country in the world (after Australia and New Zealand) to create a specialised ecological tribunal.

Within six months after the application or appeal’s submission, the NGT is required to render a final decision. The NGT meets in five locations; New Delhi serves as its central location, with the other four being Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai.

Organisation of NGT

  • The Tribunal’s members are the Chairperson, the Judges, and the Expert Members. They cannot be appointed again, and their terms of office are for three years or until they are 65 years old, whichever comes first.
  • With the Chief Justice of India’s approval, the Central Government appoints the Chairperson of NGT.
  • The central government shall establish a Selection Committee to select the Judicial Representatives and Expert Members.
  • There must be a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 full-time judges and expert members on the tribunal.

Power and Authority of the Tribunal:

  • All civil matters containing significant environmental questions are under the Tribunal’s purview.
  • In October 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has the authority to address environmental matters nationwide as a “unique” forum with Suo Motu (on its initiative) authority.
  • According to SC, the NGT’s role is not just adjudicatory; it must also carry out equally important preventative, ameliorative, or remedial roles.
  • Being a formal adjudicatory body like Courts, NGT has appellate jurisdiction to hear appeals in addition to the initial jurisdiction side on submission of an application.
  • The Tribunal will be governed by “natural justice” principles rather than constrained by the method outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908.
  • It must consider the concepts of prudence, polluter pays, and sustainable development when making any orders, decisions, or awards.

What are NGT’s advantages?

  • The NGT has established itself as a key actor in environmental control throughout time, issuing stringent directives on everything from waste management to deforestation to pollution.
  • NGT provides a route for developing environmental law by establishing an alternative conflict settlement system.
  • It lessens the burden of environmental litigation in the higher courts.
  • NGT is a quicker, less costly, and less official means to settle environmental issues.
  • It is essential to reduce actions that harm the environment.
  • Since the Chairperson and the members are not up for reappointment, they will likely make decisions independently and without caving to outside pressure.

Obstacles to NGT’s Effective Operation

  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006 are two significant laws beyond the purview of the NGT. 
  • The critical forest rights problem is closely related to the environment limits the NGT’s authority and occasionally interferes with its ability to operate.
  • Moreover, the NGT verdicts are being contested in many High Courts under Article 226 (which gives High Courts the authority to issue certain writs), with many arguing that the High Court is superior to the NGT since it is “a constitutional body whereas NGT is a statutory body”.
  • Even though the NGT Act states that a judgment of the NGT may be appealed to the Supreme Court, this is one of the Act’s shortcomings since it is unclear what decisions may be appealed.