National Green Tribunal launched
The National Green Tribunal Act 2010 which was passed by the Indian Parliament in June 2010 has been notified on 18 October 2010 and is technically now in force. This landmark event in the Indian environmental justice system was announced through a brief press note released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on 19 October 2010. While no official notification was made available on the website, the Press Release informed the public that Justice LS Panta, former judge of the Supreme Court of India, took charge of his office as on 18 October 2010. It is rumoured that a second judicial member has also been appointed but that name has not been officially released.
The coming into force of the National Green Tribunal has meant that the National Environment Appellate Authority has now been abolished as the Tribunal takes over the functions of the Appellate Authority (among other functions). Given that the Ministry took almost five months to notify the NGT Act, a smooth transition between the Appellate Authority and the Tribunal was expected. But the situation has been confusing and rather alarming.
The Ministry has not issued any rules/regulations which would govern the Tribunal and neither is there a deadline with regard to the constitution of the Tribunal – 8 more permanent judicial members and 10 permanent expert members. The situation with regard to the new Appeals is in a limbo as there is technically no forum to file new Appeals in. So as the Ministry of Environment and Forests and State agencies continue to grant environmental clearances, those who want to challenge these clearances have nowhere to go
The first information about this ‘abolishment’ of the Appellate Authority was given by an innocuous little notice outside the Authority’s office on Monday morning. This was despite the fact that the Appellate Authority was supposed to hold several hearings on that day and the following days. No prior intimation was given to the concerned parties who found out once they reached the Authority. All cases pending before the Appellate Authority are now transferred to the National Green Tribunal. Many of these cases do not have a stay order – this means the clearance which has been challenged before the Appellate Authority remains in force till the National Green Tribunal decides otherwise. One hopes that the initial confusion is not an indication of what is to come.
Shibani Ghosh firstname.lastname@example.org