Law Students from Maharashtra stage protest outside NGT Delhi against burgeoning vacancies

Meera Emmanuel November 15 2018
ngt

A collective of law students from various law colleges in Maharashtra conducted a demonstration yesterday in front of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Delhi, to highlight the need for filling up vacancies across NGT Benches.

To this end, the collective known as Lawyers for Earth Justice has also written to the authorities of the Principal NGT Bench, calling for the implementation of redressal measures to make the NGT a functional institution. 

The letter contends that successive regimes have done little to provide the tribunals with the infrastructure, staff or the resources it requires for its functions.

First, the UPA-II regime took almost three years to set up the zonal benches and provide the necessary resources, infrastructure, courtrooms and staff. This too was possible due to due to the intervention of the Supreme Court… The apathy continued during the NDA regime. Since May 2014, the NGT has not got the staff it required to resolved the mounting number of environmental litigations.. even the minimum criteria to appoint Judicial and Expert members are not adhered to…”

It has been pointed out that the continuing political apathy has seen to it that the Chennai, Kolkata, Bhopal and Pune Benches of the NGT have been shut since last January.

While appealing for measures to redress this state of affairs, the collective has also pointed out that attempts made to dilute the powers and functions of the NGT are misguided. Contrary to the popular notion that NGTs stand in the way of development projects, the collective argues that the tribunals primarily ensure that the development projects are facilitated upon due observance of the law. 

What the establishment fails to realise is that the NGT is not an obstacle to growth and does not reject projects if all the environmental norms are followed. An analysis of NGT orders from 2011-2017 suggests that the NGT is not stopping projects, rather it gives ample opportunity to the industries to take precautionary measures or asks for a review of the environmental impact assessment report. In most cases, industrial owners come back with the changes suggested and get the project approved. 

There are open and shut cases in which industries or mining units operating without clearance have been directed to be closed down. But this cannot be labeled as a hindrance to development. These are questions involving issues of environmental violations and we should not take the law for granted but adhere to it.“

In this backdrop, the Lawyers for Earth Justice has made an appeal for the following measures to be implemented,

  • All NGT Benches in India shall be made functional immediately by appointing sufficient number of Judges (Judicial Members) and Expert Members. 
  • The present system of hearing through Video Conference is a temporary solution which shall not be looked into as a permanent option for appointing Judicial Members and Expert Members at NGT.
  • Considering the specific composition of the NGT, the role of an Expert Member is very unique. It has been requested that some paragraphs by Expert Members must be included in final Judgments on substantial issues related to the environment.
  • As long as the Video Conferencing system is continued, it has been requested that an easy process for listing matters be introduced.
  • Litigants should not be asked to submit scanned copies, given that it is an economic burden for poor litigants. The collective has registered its opposition to the imposition of any such of extra expenditure upon litigants who approach the NGT to secure environmental justice. 

Read the letter:

Lawyers for Earth Justice - Letter - NGT