ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From Ascendancy to Crisis

The Green Tribunal in India After 10 Years

The National Green Tribunal—a specialised environmental institution constituted 10 years ago—has transformed environmental regulation and governance in India. Yet, the NGT’s success has been tarnished in several areas. What used to be a progressive, the innovative green tribunal now is inconsistent in adjudicating environmental litigation pitched against huge infrastructure projects. The tribunal is also struggling because of the lack of human resources and administrative support for its existence. The past 10 years of the NGT can be largely summed up as a story of procedural success in environmental decision-making tainted by institutional erosion and selective adjudicative decisions.

 

In ways wholly unanticipated by the framers of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, 2010 and in ways that would have ­astonished both the environmental regulatory authorities and environmental groups, the NGT in India has emerged as one of the most active tribunals. It is beyond doubt that if there is one tribunal that nations worldwide—including the West—look up to as a model to follow, it is the NGT. Writing in the Washington Post, Lakshmi (2015) pointed out that “the green court, known for its speed in a judicial system that otherwise moves at a glacial pace, has taken on more than 10,000 cases since its inception, weighing in on air pollution, trash collection, mining, toxic dumps and dam projects.” The information available on the NGT website reveals that between October 2010 and October 2021, 35,963 litigations were filed. Out of which, 33,619 litigations were disposed of, and only 2,344 litigations were pending.1 With the formation of the NGT, environmental regulatory authorities, especially the pollution control boards, have become more active, which was very rare to ­observe in the pre-tribunal phase.2 The industrial groups have also been very cautious in the preparation and submission of environmental impact assessment reports.

Similarly, environmental petitioners and lawyers have found the green tribunal more approachable and less expensive in addressing various complex environmental questions. At the same time, the last decade of the NGT marks the dialectics of significant judgments and disenchantment and institutional crisis. While a string of landmark orders have contributed to the procedural and substantive reforms in the environmental governance process in India, the arbitrary dismissal of appeals, limited benches, delay in the hearing, adjournment of hearings, non-availability of judges and experts, and implications of suo motu interventions by the NGT have raised concerns about the future of the NGT.

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Updated On : 26th Dec, 2021
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