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‘Challenges to NGT orders in courts a growing concern’

While the National Green Tribunal has acted as an “effective deterrent” to violations of environmental norms, recent challenges to its decisions in high courts is a growing concern, according to an expert analysis of the green body’s functioning.

The NGT recently came under criticism for its handling of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Culture Festival on the floodplains of Yamuna.

In his recently published paper, TISS professor Geetanjoy Sahu said: “Another growing concern has been that in recent years, the NGT decisions have been challenged in various High Courts under Article 226… Other High Courts like the Bombay High Court have also started entertaining appeals against the NGT orders and have asserted the superiority of a High Court over the NGT, saying ‘High Court is a constitutional body while NGT is a statutory body’.” The paper, titled ‘Impact of the National Green Tribunal on Environmental Governance in India: An Analysis of Methods and Perspectives’, was published in the Journal on Environmental Law Policy and Development . “According to the NGT Act, its decision can be challenged before the Supreme Court, as the NGT has been given enormous powers,” Mr Sahu told The Hindu . “But petitioners have been invoking Article 226 (power of High Courts to issue certain writs) to challenge decisions before the High Courts. No doubt, this provision is there, but this is one of the weaknesses of the Act as we don’t know what kind of decisions can be challenged. The Supreme Court is yet to decide on what decisions of the NGT can be challenged before the High Courts, and on what grounds.” The paper also raises the concern that in cases where the NGT’s decisions are not complied with, it was pointed out that its decisions were “not feasible to implement within a given timeframe”.

“The NGT has no means for effectively supervising and implementing its orders. It has no method to reverse its orders if they are found unworkable or require modification,” Mr Sahu said.

He pointed out towards a shift in the attitude of the Supreme Court on the environmental appeals. “No doubt the Supreme Court has played an important role as far as environmental protection is concerned, but at the same time, in contrast to its usual prioritisation of green concern, it has adopted a defensive approach. The outcomes of the Tehri Dam case, Narmada Dam case, construction of the thermal power plant at Dahanu Taluka, the Akshardham temple, and Commonwealth Games Village cases are some of the notable illustrations of the judicial defensive approach, which favours infrastructure and huge investment projects over environmental concerns.”

Since the enactment of the NGT Act in October 2010, till January 2015, the total number of cases before the NGT, and its zonal benches located in Kolkata, Chennai, Pune and Bhopal, was 7,768. Of these, 5,167 cases were resolved and 2,601 are pending. Almost 67 per cent of cases have been disposed off within nine months, the paper said.

Quote: The NGT has no means for effectively supervising and implementing its orders. Geetanjoy Sahu, TISS professor

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 1:45:21 PM |

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