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National Green Tribunal: Jurisdiction and Procedure to file a Complaint

By Nevin Clinton

What is the National Green Tribunal?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is a body that was set up through the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 to deal with cases relating to the environment. The NGT is a specialized body that focuses on effectively and quickly dealing with such cases. The Central Government stated that the tribunal would look into cases on “environment protection, conservation of forests and for seeking compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws or conditions specified while granting permissions.”

While cases that are filed in the usual forums like courts would take years to settle, filing complaints at the NGT would see a resolution in less than 6 months. This is because the NGT is mandated to dispose of cases within 6 months of filing. 

What is the NGT’s structure?

The NGT has a chairperson, judicial members and expert members who will be appointed for a five-year term (there won’t be reappointment). The Chairperson will be appointed by the government with the consultation of the Chief Justice of India. The other members will be selected by a specialized committee. The NGT has a total of five places of sitting – New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Bhopal.

Jurisdiction of the NGT

The NGT has jurisdiction over cases where there is a ‘substantial question’ relating to environmental protection or enforcement of environmental rights involved. Cases under statutes like The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 can be filed. The NGT can also act as an appellate body when an order is issued under the aforesaid acts. It is noteworthy here that cases under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Indian Forest Act, 1927 can’t be filed at the tribunal.

The NGT can provide remedies like restitution, compensation, penalties like imprisonment and fines etc. The tribunal’s decision can be appealed at the Supreme Court within 90 days of the communication of the order. 

Now, in a recent development, the question as to whether the NGT can take suo moto cognizance of a case without the filing of an application has arisen. The Supreme Court is set to decide on the matter very soon

Filing an offline complaint at the NGT

The process to file an offline complaint at the NGT is fairly simple. One has to just visit a tribunal office and fill in the application form for a complaint. Petitions in the form of written letters are also accepted. If one is filing a case which is not seeking compensation, Rs. 1000 must be paid as a fee. If the case involves compensation, one percent of the same (or a minimum of Rs. 1000) must be paid.

How to file a complaint online at the NGT?

The steps to file a complaint online at the NGT are as follows

  • Go to the online portal of the NGT (https://ngtonline.nic.in/efiling/mainPage.drt).
  • Click on ‘Applicant Corner’.
  • Sign up as an individual/advocate/institution or sign in if you’re already a user.
  • You will require a document as ID Proof that you must upload as a picture or PDF.
  • After signing in is done and you’ve agreed to all terms, go to ‘petition filing’ and fill up your details following which a reference number will be given.
  • Then details on yourself and the respondent will be required.
  • Finally you must fill in details about the complaint and you will be required to submit documents to prove your point.
  • Once you fill them up, you will get a preview of your application which you will have to confirm.
  • Finally, you will be directed to the payment section where payment can be done online.
  • Once the complaint is filed, you will also be able to track your complaint’s status through the ‘Track Complaint’ option.

Conclusion

The NGT is a body that is of paramount importance as it helps in quick disposal of cases in what is a hugely crucial area of law – environmental protection. While there are a few challenges that face the tribunal, the NGT has been instrumental in passing key orders and its role will only continue to become more and more marked as time goes on. Therefore, the general public must be given maximum awareness of the existence of such a body as well as the procedures involved in filing a complaint – both offline and online.