Tri­bunal on trial

It has been four years since the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) Act was passed by Par­lia­ment for ef­fec­tive and ex­pe­di­tious dis­posal of cases re­lat­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion of forests, and also for giv­ing com­pen­sa­tion to the vic­tims o

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY - YUKTI CHOUD­HARY

Icor­ri­dors of the Min­istry of N THE En­vi­ron­ment, Forests and Cli­mate Change (moef & cc), grow­ing frus­tra­tion is ev­i­dent against ngt. In hushed tones, of­fi­cials speak about the tri­bunal’s clam­our to get more pow­ers and perks. They call it a “power-hun­gry in­sti­tu­tion ”that has failed the pur­pose for which it was cre­ated. They talk about un­re­al­is­tic judge­ments given by ngt to the min­istry and other gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. They also cite the back­log of cases in ngt as another rea­son for the in­sti­tu­tion’s fail­ure to ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal mat­ters.

In the four years since it was formed, much has tran­spired be­tween ngt and moef&cc.ngt has,in many cases, rep­ri­manded the min­istry for be­ing ab­sent dur­ing hear­ings.For a month-and-a-half,at the end of 2013, no coun­sel from moef&cc ap­peared be­fore ngt. The body fined a few of­fi­cials from the min­istry and went to the ex­tent of cau­tion­ing its sec­re­tary that he would be com­pelled to pay heavy costs for cases ad­journed with­out any jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The min­istry has re­peat­edly con­tended that ngt has been over­step­ping its ju­ris­dic­tion.In fact,in an af­fi­davit filed be­fore Supreme Court,moef&cc’s deputy sec­re­tary dur­ing the pre­vi­ous regime la­belled ngt’s con­duct an “em­bar­rass­ment” to the gov­ern­ment in Par­lia­ment.The af­fi­davit drew heavy crit­i­cism from Supreme Court, which termed it as “non­sense”. The then Solic­i­tor Gen­eral, Mo­han Parasaran,later dis­owned the af­fi­davit.

Lately, there have been many me­dia re­ports talk­ing about a likely amend­ment of the ngt Act, by which the in­sti­tu­tion was formed,to pos­si­bly put a “check”on its pow­ers.

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