Environment and Forests
Highlights of the Bill
- The National Green Tribunal Bill, 2009 aims to set up specialised environmental courts in the country.
- The Bill replaces the existing National Environmental Appellate Authority and has wider jurisdiction than the NEAA. It will hear initial complaints as well as appeals from decisions of authorities under various environmental laws.
- The Tribunal shall consist of both judicial and expert members. Judicial members must have been judges of the Supreme Court or High Courts. Expert members have to possess technical qualifications and expertise, and also practical experience.
- The Tribunal shall hear only ‘substantial question relating to the environment’. Substantial questions are those which (a) affect the community at large, and not just individuals or groups of individuals, or (b) cause significant damage to the environment and property, or (c) cause harm to public health which is broadly measurable.
Key Issues and Analysis
- The criteria to determine what a ‘substantial question related to the environment’ are open to interpretation.
- The Bill may reduce access to justice in environmental matters by taking away the jurisdiction of civil courts. All cases under laws mentioned in the Bill will now be handled by the Tribunal which will initially have benches at only five locations.
- The Bill does not give the Tribunal jurisdiction over some laws related to the environment.
- The qualifications of judicial members of the Tribunal are similar to that of the NEAA. The government has been unable to find qualified members for the NEAA for the past three years. The Green Tribunal Bill gives an explicit option to the government to appoint members with administrative experience as expert members.
- The Bill does not specify the minimum number of members the Tribunal and also does not mention of the composition of the Selection Committee for selecting members. Some other laws that establish tribunals specify the persons who shall decide, or be consulted.