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How important is National Green Tribunal for environmental justice?

10:11 PM May 06, 2023 IST | Shishir Agrawal
how important is national green tribunal for environmental justice

National Green Tribunal (NGT) remains a topic of discussion for different reasons. These reasons are different every time like the NGT blaming Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for polluting the Yamuna. And, then Sri Sri Ravi Shanker in turn blamed NGT for the damage. In this article, we try to understand what is NGT (National Green Tribunal), how it works and what are the cases in which this institution has given historic orders.

About NGT

To achieve justice in India, there is a set process and judiciaries at different levels from session to Supreme Court. But, there is a backlog of pending cases. In a reply given in the Lok Sabha, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said, that about 6 lacs 71 thousand 543 cases are pending in various district and subordinate courts of the country. Apart from this, its number in various High Courts the number is more than 2 lakh. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to achieve environmental justice in these courts.


Keeping the above fact in mind, under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, the namesake authority was established. The objective of the organization is to hear and decide on matters related to environmental protection, the conservation of forests, and other natural resources. In simple words, it is a court that has been created to provide environmental justice. In addition to judges and lawyers, it also has members who have knowledge of environmental matters and have the ability to be called experts.

The Central Bench of NGT (National Green Tribunal) is located in Delhi. Apart from this, its 


  • West Zone Bench is located in Pune, 
  • Central Zone Bench in Bhopal, 
  • Eastern Bench in Kolkata and, 
  • Southern Bench in Chennai

Major cases

Betta Alvarez Vs State Of Goa

In 2012, a foreign national named Betta Alvarez first filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court. Then, her petition was transferred to NGT, in October 2012. Through the PIL, the applicant sought the court’s intervention to remove the illegal construction taking place in the Coastal Regulation Zone of Candolim, Goa.


In challenging Betta’s case, it was said that since Betta is not an Indian citizen, the benefit of Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be given to her. While hearing the matter, the Tribunal Court refused to accept the narrow interpretation of the word ‘person’ used in Article 21. Giving its decision on the case, the court pointed to section 2(j) of the NGT Act 2010, saying that any person, even if he is not an Indian citizen, has the right to bring the issue related to the environment before the tribunal. 


Almitra H Patel Vs Union Of India

Hearing a PIL filed by Almitra H Patel and others under Article 32, the Tribunal directed all the States and Union Territories to strictly implement the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016  and, prohibit the open burning of solid waste. Along with this, the tribunal also rejected the permission granted to Korean steel maker POSCO to set up a 12 million-tonne steel plant in Odisha.


Save Moon Region Federation Vs Union Of India

An organization called Save Moon Region Federation has approached the tribunal against the Rs 6,400 crore hydro project on Nyamzang Chu River in Arunachal Pradesh for the protection of black-necked cranes. Hearing the matter, the National Green Tribunal said

“It is a fact that hydroelectric projects provide renewable sources of energy that are environmentally friendly. But such development should be ‘sustainable development’ where there is no harm to the environment.”

While giving its decision on the matter, the court rejected the environmental permission of this project and ordered the concerned company to prepare a new proposal and make the study public related to it.

Black-necked Crane
Black-necked Crane | Photo: Flickr

Sambhar Salt Lake Case

Generally, the National Green Tribunal conduct hearings when a case is brought before the Tribunal by a person or organization. But like other courts, NGT also takes suo moto cognizance. The Sambhar Salt Lake case of the year 2019 is also one such incident. Taking cognizance of an article published in Hindustan Times in November 2019, the NGT ordered the Chief Secretary of Rajasthan to monitor the necessary action.

In fact, on November 2019, 18,000 migratory birds were found dead in the Sambhar Lake under Jaipur, Rajasthan. Taking suo moto cognizance of the matter, the NGT ordered the Chief Secretary to monitor the remedial steps to be taken and submit the monitoring report before January 22, 2021.

Vanishing Sambhar Lake
Vanishing Sambhar Lake | Photo: Flickr

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Yamuna Pollution Case

In the year 2016, the World Cultural Festival was organized by the Art of Living organization of Dharma Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This program was organized on the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi. After this program, the floodplains situated on the banks of Yamuna were badly damaged. While hearing this case, the tribunal imposed a fine of 5 crores on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Furthermore, commenting on the matter, the bench had said that the Delhi Development Authority has failed to perform its statutory function of maintaining the status quo. The authority will assess the damage and work on ecological restoration to compensate for it.

Some important questions that would be on your mind?

Who is the present chairman of NGT?

Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel is its chairman since 6 July 2018. He has been elected to this post for 5 years. Justice Goel is a retired judge of the Supreme Court.

Who selects the chairman of NGT?

The Chief Justice of India chooses the Chairperson of the NGT on the recommendation of the Central Government.

How many more members are there in NGT, who chooses them?

Apart from the Chairperson, the NGT consists of judicial members and expert members. The number of experts can be a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20. They are elected by a committee constituted by the Central Government. No member gets more than one term i.e. 5 years.

Can NGT’s decision be challenged?

Yes, NGT has the same powers as a civil court, the decision of NGT can be challenged in the Supreme Court.

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Shishir Agrawal

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