Updated: Dec 28, 2020
The word environ means, in French, to surround, envelop, encircle or enclose. “Environ” means surrounding and “ment” means action, i.e. environment is the interaction between man and nature. Thus the term ‘Environment’ refers to our surrounding and variety of issues related to human activities and its effect on nature. Environment refers to the surroundings in which living and non-living things live, interact, grow and perish. The conditions present in the surroundings govern the life of creatures therein.
Declaration of the UN Conference on Human Environment, Stockholm 1972, defined environment as comprising air, land and water, especially representative samples of natural ecosystems.
Environment is also defined as a range of complex physical, chemical and biotic factors that act upon an organism or an ecological community and determine its form and survival. The environment provides all the things necessary to nourish life in all its varied forms like air, water, land, food, shelter and so on.
However with the advancement of Science and technology there has been an abrupt increase in the use of electronic machines right from motor vehicles, technical machineries in factories and industries etc which has indirectly contributed to increase the level of air pollution. The problem of pollution has its roots in the problem of over-population. Human have created too much trash and there is too little space on the planet to dump it in.
India has the distinction of releasing the largest volumes of pollutants into the air after China. Majority of the cities with the most polluted air are in India and WHO goes so far as to call them death traps. Air pollution is the fifth largest killer in the country, according to Global Burden of Disease. Most vulnerable will be old, children, homeless and poor sections of the society. Burning of fuel wood and coal leads to indoor air pollution and the formation of CO2 and CO along with hydrocarbons. Chronic lung disorders, cancer, prenatal deaths and low birth weight are a common occurrence due to air pollution. Industrial air pollution from petroleum refineries, chemical industry, and paper and dye industries is causing severe damage to the ecology as well as severe damage to the ecology as well as several man-made structures. The losses caused due to mortality and morbidity in humans because of industrial pollution, when accounted for, would run into crores. Vehicular pollution triggers many respiratory ailments, as traffic speed has come down considerably due to congested roads. The speed of traffic varies between 8km/hour and 16km per/hour. India is providing low-sulphur diesel in only some of its cities, and the rest of the country uses high- sulphur diesel for its buses and trucks that spew noxious sulphur and nitrous oxides into the air. Indian diesel contains 0.5% sulphur by weight; but, even this is high compared to European standards where it is 0.001 percent.
Urban air quality data according to the World Health Organization (WHO) reconfirms that India appears among the group of countries with the highest particular matter (PM) levels. Of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, 14 are in India, says the WHO Report, released in May, 2018. Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world today.
Different countries have globally established separate ‘Green Courts’ or ‘Green Tribunal’ or ‘Environmental Court’ to deal with the environment related litigations. After Australia and New Zealand, India is perhaps the third country in the World to have a specialized Environment Court. India is one of the pioneers in establishing the green court among developing countries. In India, National Green Tribunal was established in 2010 under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This particular article of Indian Constitution assured its citizens for the protection of life and personal liberty. Keeping in view, of this constitutional right, the government has started a new Green Tribunal to exclusively deal with environment related litigation. The newly established ‘Green Tribunal’ is a unique judicial mechanism in the sense that it is a special, “fast track”, “quasi judicial” body to ensure speedy justice on the environment related cases.
The 186th Report of the Law Commission of India, recommended that the government needs to constitute special Environmental Courts, to deal with multidisciplinary issues relating to protection of environment. These courts would have members with judicial or legal experience assisted by members with technical knowledge. Environmental experts were included in this specialized body as the advice of environmental experts is required in deciding cases related to environment. Speedy disposal of cases would be the resultant of setting such bodies. Environmental Courts in various States or group of states would have original jurisdiction in all civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment is involved and Appellate jurisdiction under various other statutes.
NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT
A specialized body is set up under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 known as The National Green Tribunal for the speedy disposal of cases that are related to Environmental Protection, conservation of forest and other natural resources. It consists of 38 sections,5 chapters and three schedules. Lok Sabha adopted the National Green Tribunal Bill, in 2009. The Bill replaces the earlier National Environmental Appellate Authority and has wider scope and coverage than NEAA. This judicial body was meant to deal exclusively with the environmental laws and to provide citizens the right to environment. Initially it was decided in the Bill that the main bench of the Tribunal will be set up in Bhopal along with four other circuit Benches. However, now the main bench of NGT is located in Delhi, the National Capital of India. The other branches are in Bhopal, Chennai and Kolkata. Recently, the NGT started its Pune Circuit Bench. Pune Bench will have its jurisdiction over Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Daman & Diu. Setting up of Court in different parts of the country serve as an example of global principles of environmental justice translated at the local level.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT 2010
1.The principles of Natural Justice shall guide the National Green Tribunal and it is not bound by the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 as well as the rules of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
2.It will be easier to approach the Court regarding environmental issues and also to point out the negative impacts of the proposed projects on the environment including technical flaws and also can propose suggestions to minimize environmental degradation.
3.The Tribunal has original and appellate jurisdiction concerning the implementation of 7 environmental laws (i.e.) Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
4.The tribunal doesn’t include wildlife protection Act, 1972 because many cases that are related to wildlife will be notably criminal cases and the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over criminal cases.
5.The National Green Tribunal will apply Principles of sustainable development; Precautionary Principle and Polluter pay principle while passing any awards or decisions.
6.If the tribunal notices any false claim it can also impose costs including lost benefits due to interim injunctions.
7.The Act applies to Civil Cases and not to Criminal Offences.
8.There is no limit in granting compensation for the victims under the National Green Tribunal.
9.The compensation ordered by the Tribunal shall be credited to the Environmental Relief Fund 2008.
10.Any person aggrieved by the decision of the tribunal shall move to the Supreme Court.
11.Any person fails to comply with the order of the tribunal shall be punishable with imprisonment or fine.
OBJECTIVE OF THE ACT
An act to provide for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
IMPORTANCE OF THE ACT
The National Green Tribunal plays a major role in the disposal of cases related to environment protection. It will dispose of cases within 6 months of the filing of cases. The tribunal plays a significant role in the sustainable development of the environment. According to the National Green Tribunal, till 31st May, 2020, the Tribunal had disposed of 29760 cases and 2866 cases are in pending.
COMPOSITION OF THE NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL
Members of the Green Tribunal include the Chairperson, full time Judicial Members (not less than 10 and maximum 20) and full time Expert Members (also not than 10 and more than 20). The chairperson has been given the freedom on inviting any expert, from outside, to assist the Tribunal in any particular case. The chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. Judicial and Expert members are appointed on recommendations by the Selection Committee.
QUALIFICATION FOR APPOINTMENTS
Chairperson - A person who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court
Judicial Member- A person who is or has been the judge of a High Court.
Expert Member - Qualification and experience in relevant scientific and technological field or practical experience in dealing with environmental matters. 
JURISDICTION OF NGT UNDER THE NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT, 2010
The NGT Act provides two types of jurisdiction namely- 1) Original Jurisdiction and 2) Appellate Jurisdiction.
As per original jurisdiction the tribunal has jurisdiction of all civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment) involved and also question arises out of the implementation of Schedule -1.
Schedule-1 talks about following enactments namely-
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,
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. 
The Act mandates on the Tribunal to hear the dispute arising under section (14)1 and also settle such dispute and pass order there on. But Tribunal may adjudicate the dispute with in a period of 6 months from the date of which the cause of action first arose.
The tribunal shall also have Appellate Jurisdiction enactments given under Schedule-1 of this act. As per Section 15 of this Act, the relief, compensation and restitution, the tribunal may provide by an order:
a.To the victims of pollution and other environmental damage arising under Schedule-1 (including accident while handling any hazardous substance).
b.For restitution of property damaged,
c.For restitution of environment for such area or areas, subject to the discretion of tribunal.
It is mandatory on tribunal, to pay and payable relief, compensation or restitution with addition to the relief given under the Public liability Insurance Act, 1961. The application for any relief, compensation or restitution shall be ascertained by tribunal within a period of five years from the date on which the cause of such compensation or restitution first arise. On the satisfaction of sufficient cause the tribunal may further extend 60 days to file the application.
The National Green Tribunal is a welcoming concept, where there are huge environmental- related cases that have been raised in every part of the society, where undoubtedly it has to be addressed and cleared there and the, for the sustainable development of the environment. Hence the tribunal plays a significant role in protecting the environment. The tribunal has to be monitored periodically to attain the objective of environmental conservation.
Namrata Das Kashyap