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Can’t afford to remain mute spectators: Supreme Court upholds NGT’s right to take suo motu cognizance

While ruling that “the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is vested with suo motu power in the discharge of its functions under the NGT Act”, the Supreme Court on Thursday observed that the Tribunal, “with the specific role envisaged for it, can hardly afford to remain “a mute spectator when no one knocks on its door”.

While deciding a batch of appeals on suo motu jurisdiction of the NGT, a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar observed that the Supreme Court had ruled that the right to a healthy environment is part of the right to life under Article 21. Is. The NGT has been established under the Constitution of India and recognized that the Constitutional mandate to enforce Article 21 with respect to the environment.

The court rejected the contention that the NGT is a tribunal and a creature of law and as such, cannot act on its own motion or exercise the power of judicial review or be automatic in the discharge of its functions. : cannot work.

Writing for the bench, Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed that “the duty to protect Article 21 rights cannot stand on a narrow scope of interpretation” and “procedural provisions are in step with the fundamental rights applicable in the environmental domain”. should be allowed to fall, in the larger public interest”.

“To be effective in its domain, we need to delegate a public responsibility to the NGT to initiate action when required, to protect the fundamental right to a clean environment and procedural law should not hinder its application,” SC he said.

The judgment, the NGT said, was treated as a complimentary special forum to deal with all environmental multi-disciplinary issues dealt with by the High Courts and the SCs, “and thus it would be pertinent to assume that suo motu proceedings are initiated.” should also be available with the same power for

The bench, which went into the history of the formation of the NGT and the development of environmental jurisprudence, pointed out that the tribunal is the institutionalization of developments made by the court in environmental law and observed that “these progressive steps have inherited it. broad concept”. It added that the “actions” of the NGT “should, therefore, not be viewed in a clichéd manner, which is different from the progress already made in Indian environmental jurisprudence”.

A hands-off mode would dilute the NGT from discharging its responsibility when faced with emergencies requiring immediate and effective response, the court said, which should be dismissed in the interest of justice.

Referring to the increasing threats of environmental disasters due to climate change, the court observed, “For the well being of the country and its people, it is important to have a resilient mechanism to address all issues relating to environmental damage and consequent climate change so that We can leave behind a better environmental legacy.”

The SC observed that “entities which are often addressing immediate concerns derive little benefit from procedural nitpicking, which is unfair in the face of both statutory spirit and the evolving nature of environmental degradation. Not only must a process exist but such It must be meaningfully effective to address the concerns. The role of such an institution cannot be mechanical or decorative.”

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