The National Green Tribunal, a body to adjudicate against environmental violations in India, in the offing with the environment ministry has decided to appoint retired judge of Supreme Court L.S. Panta as its chairperson.
The ministry is also drafting rules for the tribunal, having power to impose a fine of up to R10 crore and jail of up to three years. This will enable citizens to file complaints against government or private bodies for environmental degradation.
However, there will be no limit for the compensation that the tribunal can award to victims of environmental degradation.
What’s more, anybody will be able to approach the tribunal. “NGO, an individual, journalist, state pollution board or a social action group... We have opened up doors,” an official said.
This will mean that if somebody finds a neighbourhood drain has contaminated underground water, they can file a complaint against the local body with the tribunal and seek damages.
No such facility is available as of now due to the National Environment Appellate Authority’s limited role of hearing cases related to environment clearances. The tribunal, which will subsequently take over, will have power to decide on matters relating to seven environment laws including water, air and bio-diversity acts.
But the biggest step in making the tribunal, approved in the budget session of Parliament, is that Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh has accepted Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia’s suggestion to appoint Panta as its head.
“The government will nominate other members of the tribunal in consultation with the new chairperson,” a senior ministry official said.
The notification regarding the chairperson is likely to be made this week.