Those aggrieved by execution of environment laws would soon have a body to seek 'fast redressal' before filing a petition before the Supreme Court. A draft bill finalised by the Law Ministry on the new format of tribunals is likely to be discussed by the Union Cabinet next month.
Ending multiple tribunals, a proposal to have National and Regional Environment Tribunals seeks to have a single body to look into all the cases related to environment laws. The move is aimed at having a regulator for environmental laws to provide fairness to the entire process, a senior Environment and Forest Ministry official said.
According to officials, all environmental laws — Water Act, 1974, Environment Protection Act, Wildlife Conservation Act, Forest Conservation Act and Hazardous Substances Management Act — would come under the purview of the tribunals. No other court would have power to enter into jurisdiction of these tribunals. The appeal against the tribunal's order would be allowed only in the Supreme Court as the tribunals will have status of a High Court.
"While maintaining the process of speedy redressal the government wants the process of natural justice to be followed," a senior ministry official said. The Law ministry, which recently vetted the proposal, had also talked about time-bound disposal of cases to prevent delay in execution of important development projects.
Being constituted on the basis of the Law Commission's recommendations, the tribunals would be two-tier system — one in a region and other at the national level. While some matter, like the ones directly related to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, would come directly under the purview of the National tribunals, others will have to be lodged with state tribunals.
The tribunal will have a chairperson and a member from judicial background and the remaining eight members would be experts from different fields like —Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Engineering, Environmental Economics and Social Sciences and Forestry. Appeal against the tribunal's order can be made in the Supreme Court within 30 days, which can be extended by another 30 days.
With implementation of the new legislation, the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 and National Environment Appellate Authority, Act, 1977 would be repealed. The forward-looking legislation intends better public participation and scrutiny of implementation of environment laws without causing a delay in execution of projects, an official said.