India is a signatory to the conclusion arrived at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment ended at Stockholm in June, 1972 which calls upon the nations to take effective measures for the conservation and improvement of human environment. The Conference also decided that the States shall take steps for judicial and administrative proceedings, redress and remedy, develop municipal law regarding the obligations and compensation for the persons aggrieved of pollution and other damage caused to the environment due to human intervention. Additionally, Article 21 of the Constitution of India has been interpreted by the judiciary to include the right to healthy environment. Hence, the National Green Tribunal Act was enacted on June 2, 2010 for the effectual and speedy disposal of matters connected with protection of environment, conservation and preservation of forests and natural resources, enforcement of legal rights, compensation for damage to environment etc.
The Act empowers the Central Government to establish the National Green Tribunal for the purpose of implementing jurisdiction and authority conferred under the Act. The Tribunal shall comprise of Chairperson, Judicial members and Expert members. A person shall be eligible to be appointed as the Chairperson or Judicial Member of the Tribunal only if he is presently or retired Supreme Court Judge or Chief Justice of the High Court. A Judicial Member shall also be a person who is or retired High Court Judge. A person shall be appointed as the Expert Member if he holds Masters Degree in Science with Doctorate degree or Masters in Engineering or Technology and has the specified experience in the field of environment and forests in the National level institution or has experience in the administrative field in the environmental matters.
The members of the Tribunal shall be appointed by the Central Government, where the Chairperson shall be appointed on the advice of the Chief Justice of India and the Judicial Member and the Expert Members shall be appointed on the approval of the Selection Committee. The members of the Tribunal shall continue to hold office for five years from the date of appointment but he shall not be reappointed. The members of the Tribunal shall resign from the office by notice in writing addressed to the Central Government. The Chairperson of the Tribunal is vested with financial and administrative powers under the rules formulated by the Central Government.
The Tribunal is conferred civil jurisdiction where a substantial question about the environment and the enforcement of legal right to the environment is included. The Tribunal shall entertain cases relating to the environmental issues and settle the disputes and pass appropriate orders. The Tribunal shall pass orders for relief and recompense to the victims of environmental pollution and damage including accidents happening due to the handling of hazardous substances, restoration of the damaged property and the environment.
The aggrieved party is permitted to prefer an appeal against the order or direction of the appellate authority or the Board under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 or by the State Government or any other authority under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 or appellate authority under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 or Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 or an order of the National Biodiversity Authority or a State Biodiversity Board under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The aggrieved person from the order of the Tribunal shall prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court. The Act penalizes for the non-compliance with the orders of the Tribunal. The Tribunal shall have all the powers of a civil court under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 repealed The National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 and the National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997. The 2010 also dissolved National Environment Appellate Tribunal constituted under The National Environment Tribunal Act, 1997. The establishment of the National Green Tribunal is considered to be a landmark in the environmental law in India.