Setting up a bench in State will ensure better redressal of environmental litigations.

Activists and lawyers fighting litigations on environmental issues will soon be spared long journeys to Chennai to argue their cases thanks to the move to set up a bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the city.

Ritwick Dutta, a Supreme Court lawyer who has appeared in a series of complex environment-related cases, has termed the move ‘very positive’.

During a recent visit to the State, Mr. Dutta said the State was yet to tap the full potential of the green tribunal. He said given the history of environment-related litigations, the State should have shown more interest in the tribunal. Mr. Dutta said with the setting up of a bench here, the situation would definitely change as people could regularly approach the tribunal because of its accessibility.

“That you need not travel to Delhi to access the service of NGT is not enough, as a trip to Chennai can be equally problematic. Considering that the Supreme Court has mandated NGT as the competent authority to consider environmental matters, it is only natural that it comes closer to the people,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Dutta said with the NGT supposed to function parallel to High Courts, it was only appropriate that the proposed bench came up in the area where the Kerala High Court is situated.

He said the response to the NGT had improved significantly wherever benches were set up. High Court lawyer and environmental activist Harish Vasudevan hoped the proposed bench would facilitate espousal of environmentalism in Kerala which is home to the most sensitive ecological areas of Western Ghats. Violation of ecological laws has also been rampant in the State. He said with the High Court referring all cases involving serious environmental issues to the NGT, setting up its bench in the State would ensure better redressal of environment-related litigations.

Environmental activist C.R. Neelakantan said while the move would ensure better accessibility and make litigation affordable. “This is significant considering environmental litigations are often about corporate interest versus public interest, which is espoused by activists without the financial support that the former commands,” he said.

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