Chennai: National Green Tribunal bench defunct since January after lone member’s retirement
Even as the police firing at anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi led to an outrage in the State, the Southern bench of the National Green Tribunal here has remained non-functional from October
CHENNAI: Even as the police firing at anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi led to an outrage in the State, the Southern bench of the National Green Tribunal here has remained non-functional from October 2017 due to lack of quorum, environmental activists say.The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has so far made no attempt to fill the posts of judicial and expert members. This apart, the NGT acting Chairman on his part has made no alternative arrangements, activists say.
Except for the south zone, the tribunals in other zones - Western, Eastern and Central zones- are functioning.
Circuit benches were formed, where judicial and expert members came for a short 10 day period and disposed of urgent cases. For instance, Judicial member Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore and expert member Nagin Nanda from the Principal Bench of NGT went to Central Zone in Bhopal early this month. Likewise, Judicial member Justice SP Wangdi and expert member Nagin Nanda were in Eastern Bench in Kolkata in April.
However, when it comes to the southern bench here, there has been no activity ever since January 4, when the lone member Justice MS Nambiar too retired. The cause list uploaded in the NGT website on Wednesday said the cases have been adjourned to July 25. Delhi-based environment advocate Ritwik Dutta, who represents several high-profile cases of Tamil Nadu in NGT and Supreme Court, questioned as to why the Chennai bench alone is being ignored. If circuit benches can be formed in other cities, why not Chennai, he asks. “The aggrieved parties are forced to come to Delhi now or approach the High Court,” he said.
The tribunal was established for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and make polluters compensate for damages caused. It is a specialised body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues. With the bench not functioning for many months, the very purpose of its existence is defeated, Ritwik said.
Meanwhile, environmental groups have launched a signature campaign and written to the environment ministry to expedite the appointment process. M Nizamudeen, general secretary, Consumer Federation Tamil Nadu, who is collecting the signatures, said; “The non-functioning of the bench has severely curtailed our legal right to environment, which is regarded as a fundamental right. Further, it is extremely time consuming and expensive for us to travel to New Delhi to approach the Principal Bench,” he said.