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Legal Pulse: Mobile 'green tribunals' to tackle environmental cases backlog


Parliament has passed the National Green Tribunal Bill (NGB), which paves the way for the setting up of four mobile 'green tribunals' to speedily adjudicate environmental disputes and resolve over 5,000 pending environmental cases.

The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha yesterday while the Lok Sabha approved it on 30 April after a year of deliberations when it was introduced in the lower house on 31 July 2009.

Established to function under the aegis of the Apex Court, the four mobile circuit benches and one principal bench at Bhopal will enjoy civil jurisdiction to try and dispose of cases related to environmental clearance of industrial projects and protection of environmental rights.

The so-called green tribunals also have authority to order relief and compensation to victims of environmental hazards and accidents.

Each bench will be headed by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court Chief Justice as the chairman chosen by the Chief Justice of India along with other judicial and environmental law experts.  

The Times of India reported:

The environment ministry has also included three basic principles that have become part of green jurisprudence with several apex court orders establishing them. The polluter pays and precautionary principle will now be the basic framework against which the tribunals will adjudicate. While the first puts the onus on the polluter to pay for any financial liability arising out of an incident, the latter requires that the tribunal put the onus on the group or party under the scrutiny to prove that their actions will not cause harm to public or environment even though complete and absolute scientific clarity on the possible impacts of such actions does not exist.
With mobility being a unique feature, these green benches are expected to provide easy access to people across the country as a part of an inherent ability to hear cases beyond a certain location.

The bill was amended and suggestions were brought on board to ensure that an aggrieved individual other than an organisation or institute could also approach the tribunal.       

Aimed to fast track cases falling under the defined category, the Green Tribunals will supersede the National Environment Tribunal and its appellate tribunal.

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