Role of National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution

This article was written by Kumar Mukul Choudhary and Raj Krishna both students of CNLU. 


The Government of India in the year 2010 enacted National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act which enabled the creation of a special tribunal which would handle the cases pertaining to environmental issues. This Act drew its inspiration from Article 21 of the Constitution of India which assures the citizens of India a right to clean and healthy environment.[1] After the enactment of this Act, India became third country in the world after Australia and New Zealand which now has a special fast-track quasi-judicial body which deals with environment related cases

The Act of Parliament defines the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 as follows,

“An Act to provide for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.[2]

On 18 October 2010, Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta became the first Chairman of National Green Tribunal (NGT). Presently Justice Umesh Dattatraya Salvi is the chairman of NGT.  .



In United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992, Rio de Janeiro), India vowed to provide judicial and administrative remedies for the victims of the pollutants and other environmental damage.[3]

Apart from that there have been various instances wherein the Supreme Court of India reiterated the need of an Environmental Court. The Supreme Court in M. C. Mehta v. Union of India[4] observed that an “Environment Court” must be established for fast disposal of environmental cases. As a sequel to it the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 and National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997 were passed by the Indian Parliament. Further it can be said that this act was also a response to implement the apex court’s pronouncement that the right to healthy environment is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.


The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal is located in New Delhi. Apart from the Principal Bench, there are four regional benches which are located at Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (South Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench) respectively.[5]

The chairperson of the National Green Tribunal is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court. Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Apart from the Chairman, each bench of National Green Tribunal comprises of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member. Expert members are usually those who have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.[6]



A claim for compensation can be made for:

  1. Relief / compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage including accidents including accidents involving hazardous substances;
  2. Restitution of property damaged;
  3. Restitution of the environment for such areas as determined by the National Green Tribunal.

Further no application for grant of any compensation or relief or restitution of property or environment shall be entertained by the tribunal unless it is made within a period of five years from the date on which the cause for such compensation or relief first arose.[7]

The NGT has a power to hear all civil matters which are related to environment and questions regarding the enforcement and implementation of laws which fall under the seven categories of laws namely (in order of their enactment):[8]

  1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  3. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  4. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  5. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  6. The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  7. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 [9]

The NGT has been given the power to regulate the procedure by itself. It does not follow the principles of civil procedure code instead it follows the principles of natural justice. Section 20 of the NGT Act states that at the time of giving orders National Green Tribunal shall apply the principle of sustainable development, precautionary principle and polluters pay principle. Further the National Green Tribunal has the same power as of the civil court in deciding the matter falling within these seven legal acts. Even the NGT is not bound by the rules of evidence as mentioned in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. However anything which is not covered under these seven acts, the NGT then is not competent to admit the suit for that matter.[10]


Under Rule 22 of the NGT Rules, a review of a decision or an Order of NGT can be done.[11] An NGT Order can also be challenged before the Supreme Court within ninety days.

But, in the recent times conflicts are brewing between National Green Tribunal and the High courts. As per the National Green Tribunal Act, appeals from National Green Tribunal can only go to the Supreme Court, thus by-passing the high courts. However, a division bench of the Madras High Court in February 2014 held that high courts do have jurisdiction to entertain appeals against the orders of the NGT under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India.



V.I Yamuna Conservation Zone

In April 2014 the NGT held that the health of River Yamuna will be affected by the proposed recreational facilities on the river. The NGT recommended Government that it should declare a 52 km stretch of the Yamuna in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as a conservation zone. [12]


V.II Coal Blocks Case

The National Green Tribunal cancelled the clearance given by the then Union Environment and Forests Minister, Jairam Ramesh, to the Parsa East and Kante-Basan captive coal blocks in the Hasdeo-Arand forests of Chhattisgarh due to environmental concerns.



Since its establishment, National Green Tribunal (NGT) has emerged as a strong force for the enforcement of Environmental Legislations in India. Further National Green Tribunal makes one more innovation by providing strict penalty for non-observation of the order of the tribunal. Thus, implementation of the order of the tribunal happens in a more effective manner as compared to other civil courts.[13]

However, unlike the other courts of the country, the rules relating to constitution and composition of selection committee tilts the balance of power in favor of Central Government. This requires a change. We need to ensure that NGT does not become a parking lot for retired bureaucrats. The process of appointment needs to be fair and transparent and the members appointed should be well qualified personals.[14]

 Apart from that there is also certain sort of ambiguity in terms of jurisdiction i.e. whether the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain appeals against the orders of the NGT. Madras High Court has held that the High Court can entertain appeals against orders of NGT under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, which is in contravention of the NGT Act.  Thus, this ambiguity needs to be removed. The researchers believe that the High Courts should have jurisdiction to entertain appeals against the orders of NGT under Article 227 of the Constitution. This is because it will help in reducing the work-load of Supreme Court and would also cause convenience to the parties involved in the dispute.

[1] Constitution of India, Art. 21.

[2] The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (Number 19 of 2010).

[3]  Rio Conference, 1992.

[4] M.C. Mehta v Union of India, 1987 SCR (1) 819.

[5] Praveen Bhargav, Everything you need to know about the National Green Tribunal, Conservation India (May. 23, 2018, 1:00 p.m.),

[6] Id.

[7] National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, S.S. Rana and Co. (May 23, 2018, 11:30 p.m.),

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] NGT Rules, Rule 22.

[12] Panel : Scrap Yamuna riverfront project, Delhi Daily News (May 24, 2018, 1:00 p.m.),–Scrap-Yamuna-riverfront-project-1398490017/

[13] Ms. Jayashree Khandare, Role of National Green Tribunal in Protection Environment , Paripex- Indian Journal of Research , Volume 4 Issue 12, December 2015, ISSN: 2250-1991.

[14] Id.

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