HIGH COURTS v NGT
Before NGT, high courts in different states used to take up important environmental cases, including suo motu ones through "green" Benches. While some, in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Karnataka, remain active, others are slowly dying down, as environmental matters now go to NGT. According to environmentalist Subhas Dutta, the green Bench is likely to become non-functional in the near future.
However, conflicts are brewing between NGT and the high courts. As per the NGT Act, appeals from NGT can only go to the Supreme Court, thus bypassing the high courts. But the Madras High Court has disagreed with this provision. It has stressed that the bar imposed on lower courts by the Act, excluding them from deliberating on environmental cases, does not extend to the high courts. This is because the jurisdiction of a high court under Article 226/227 of the Indian Constitution is part of the Constitution's basic structure. In other words, the court stressed that environmental appeals from NGT had to go to the high court first before going to the apex court.
The attitude of other high courts in this matter is not consistent. In June 2014, the Bombay High Court ordered an appeal from NGT be sent to the apex court. The issue is now pending before the Supreme Court for clarification.