Justice at a Cost?
Apr 26, 2011
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For many like Ramesh Gauns, an Appellant before the erst-while National Environment Appellate Authority, the fee requirement would have made it impossible to approach the National Green Tribunal.

While the country awaits the setting up of the National Green Tribunal, the Ministry of Environment and Forests finally issued the Rules which will regulate the functioning of the Tribunal. But the much awaited Rules left everyone in a shock – it was as if the Ministry did not want project affected persons and victims of environmental disasters to approach the Tribunal. The Rules make the procedure so complicated that it is now virtually impossible for a lay person to approach the Tribunal without legal assistance. Perhaps the most alarming Rule was Rule 12 – ‘An application or appeal where compensation has been claimed, shall be accompanied by a fee equivalent to 1% of the compensation claimed, subject to a minimum of Rs 1,000’.

So an aggrieved person would have to first shell out 1% of the compensation that is claimed before the Application can be heard. An exception was made only for persons below the poverty line. This issue was raised in mainstream media. Rahul Choudhary of the TAI India Secretariat were contacted by media persons to discuss the implications of the Rule.

Given the civil society protest against the fee requirement, the Ministry was forced to remove Rule 12– merely 20 days after it issued the Rule. As the Ministry continues to adopt a defensive stance and compares the National Green Tribunal Act to other procedural (not beneficial) legislations, it is going to be an uphill task to make the Tribunal more people-friendly. Meanwhile, civil society can rejoice this one small yet very significant victory.

Shibani Ghosh shibani.life@gmail.com

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