The National Green Tribunal (NGT), a judicial body aimed at expediting environment-related cases and the first in the country, will soon have four regional benches.
India is only the third country after Australia and New Zealand to have a dedicated green court.
It resumed hearings Monday after the summer break.
Cause for Pride: India is only the third country after Australia and New Zealand to have a dedicated green court (Photo: Senthil Kumaran)
Launched last October, NGT is headed by L.S. Panta, a retired judge of the Supreme Court.
"The tribunal started functioning in mid-May. Cases have been heard earlier. Today was the first hearing after the vacation," said Panta.
According to an environment ministry official, the NGT is an independent body which was launched with the "initial support" of the ministry.
The bench is hearing cases transferred from the National Environment Appellate Authority and from the various courts including the Supreme Court of India. With the launch of the NGT, the appellate authority has ceased to exist.
"Twenty-six cases have been transferred from the appellate authority to the NGT. There are various other cases from courts as well," Panta said, adding that fresh cases are being heard too.
The tribunal deals with cases relating to water pollution, forest conservation, air pollution, environment protection, public liability and biological diversity.
Headquartered in New Delhi, the NGT will soon have circuit benches in the four regions of the country.
The eastern bench will be at Kolkata, the western at Pune, the central at Bhopal and the southern at Chennai. The Delhi bench then would be called as the principal bench.
"For now, these benches are not working. It will take a couple of months more for them to start functioning. We need more members and the procedure for their appointment is going on. Till the time, all the cases would be heard here," said Panta.
He added that the cases of different regions would be transferred as soon as the other benches start operating.
The NGT, apart from Panta, comprises retired high court judges A. Suryanarayana Naidu and C.V. Ramulu. Each of them is assisted by an environmental expert.
"Anybody and everybody can approach the NGT for civil damages arising out of non-implementation of various laws relating to the environment," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said during the launch of the NGT last year. - IANS