No new plans to modify National Green Tribunal – Govt

The BJP-led government at the center has said that it has no further plans to amend the powers or constitution of the National Green Tribunal, the quasi-judicial body set up by the previous UPA government for protecting the environment.

“There is no amendment proposed in the Constitution and functions of the National Green Tribunal,” Mahesh Sharma, minister of environment, forest and climate change said, adding that the government was “satisfied” with the functioning of the body.

The National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010, primarily to ensure that the environment is protected.

Anyone can bring cases of environmental impact in front of the body, which has quasi-judicial powers to issue directions to the executive arms of the government.

Being a ‘specialized’ court for environmental matters, the NGT has emerged as a port of first call for those who are aggrieved about environmental degradation.

Among the recent high-profile cases it has heard are the Art of Living movement pitching camps on Yamuna banks, the Delhi government building a sprawling bus depot on the Yamuna banks and the odd-even scheme introduced by the Delhi government to tackle air pollution.

There was some expectation that the new government will roll-back some of the ‘anti-development’ moves put in place by the previous, Congress Party-led government.

Soon after the new NDA government took over, many global environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace, found their funding cut off, even as some home ministry officials aired their suspicions that at least part of the environmentalist movement was a ploy by Western countries to stop India from developing.

Despite the latest averment and assertion of confidence in the functioning of the NGT, the government did dilute some of the provisions regarding the qualifications for appointment to the NGT as part of the Finance Bill 2017.

For example, it relaxed the criteria to allow even experienced lawyers to be appointed to the tribunal, instead of just former Supreme Court justices and Chief Justices of various high courts.

The Finance Act also gave the executive branch of the government the power to appoint the tribunal members and also reduced their tenure from 5 years to 3.