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The National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997

The National Environment Appellate Authority Act came in to force on the 30th day of January 1997. As Environment degradation increased in India by many disasters, Supreme Court of India and Indian Government felt the need for setting up of environmental Courts to look in to the matters relating to environmental issues as damages caused to the environment. An Act enacted for the establishment of a National Environment Appellate Authority to hear appeals with respect to restriction of areas and to deal with the matters prevails under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and for matters connected therewith.

National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997 comprised of 23 Sections in brief which deals with the Constitution of Appellate Authority and matters relating to the powers functions of members, Central Government to perform the functions established a body under Section 3 of the Act called as National Environment Appellate Authority. Authority has it head office at Delhi and consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson, and three other members, all the members of the Appellate Authority are duly appointed by the President as specified under Section 5 (4) and comes within purview of public servants as specified in Section 21 of Indian Penal Code. The Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and other members of the Appellate Authority holds office for the term of three years from the date when the members enter in to an office and they shall be eligible for the re-appointment as prescribed under Section 7 of Act. Any member of the Appellate Authority can resign the office at any time by writing it to the president and president can remove any person from office if the member proved by misbehavior as specified in Section 8.

Any person aggrieved by the order regarding order of environmental clearance in the areas prescribed under Act has the right to entertain appeal to the Appellate Authority and Appellate Authority should dispose the appeal within 90 days as laid in Section 11 (4). Authority have power to regulate its own procedure including fixing of places to sit and shall not bound by procedure of Civil Procedure Code, 1908, but the Authority has power vested in a Civil Court under Code, 1908 while trying a suit and matters regarding summoning and enforcing the attendance of oath, recording statements made under Section 123 and 124 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Under Section 13 of the Act Chairperson as the head of the Authority shall exercise financial and administrative functions as prescribed under the rules and all other members of the Authority bound to execute a direction issued by a Chairperson.

No Civil or any other authority have jurisdiction to entertain any appeal with regard to the matters for which the Appellate Authority been enacted under the Act. Under section 16 of the Act all proceedings before the Appellate Authority deemed to be as judicial proceedings as held within the meaning specified under Sections 193, 219 and 228 of Indian Penal Code.  As Act and Appellate Authority under the Act initiated only in good faith to help the public no person has the right to initiate suit or prosecution against the Central Government, Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other members of the Appellate Authority. Appellate Authority constituted under Act has a right to initiate order against persons who are against environment protection and person whoever fails to comply with the order made by the Appellate Authority shall be punishable with the term extended to seven years or with fine extended to one lakh rupees or with both. Central Government under Section 21 and 22 of the Act has power to make rules and remove difficulties which relates to the matter of salaries allowances of members of the Appellate Authority and  financial and administrative power of the Chairperson as prescribed under Section 13.

As Parliament of India enacted two laws relating to Environment they are National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 and National Environment Appellate Authority, 1997. Both laws enacted for look out the matters connected with environment issues and compensate the victims who fallen out of environmental disaster. National Environment Tribunal never had its effective functioning to deal with the matter of environment, while National Environment Appellate Authority positively existed for certain years but not fulfilled the objectives laid under the Act.

by Priyadarshini Chandrasekar.