New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken on a role beyond a tribunal and there is a need to look into the overarching mandate it is employing currently, a ministerial panel looking into making India a manufacturing hub has proposed.
Some steps taken by the NGT are causing losses to the industry and forcing them to enter litigation, the group of ministers (GOM) said in its report finalised in October, stressing the need to resolve the ambiguity caused by the NGT.
The ministerial group is headed by Textile and Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.
“National Green Tribunal (NGT) is not equivalent to nor has the status of a High Court under the Indian Constitution. However, over the few years one has observed that NGT has taken on a role of beyond being a tribunal,” read the report. ThePrint has accessed a copy of it.
The report pointed out that the NGT has in the last 15-18 months constituted over 175 committees to examine various issues and these committees are undermining powers of statutory authorities.
“The members of these committees are supposedly outside experts whom NGT deems appropriate, but their appointment is non-standard and opaque. NGT is delegating many powers to such committees, which are reserved for statutory bodies, thus undermining the powers and authority of such statutory bodies,” the report said.
The report suggested that efforts should be made to “address the dispute resolution and disruption issues for environment related issues and the overarching mandate currently being employed by the NGT”.
The GoM cited the quashing of guidelines formulated by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) by the NGT multiple times. It pointed out how due to this “unnecessary standoff” between the NGT and CGWA, industries are being forced into non-compliance despite meeting all requirements for the renewal of the no-objection certificate.
In July this year, the NGT struck down CGWA’s 2020 guidelines pushing for stricter conditions for ground water use. The previous year it had struck down the 2018 guidelines of CGWA.
The CGWA had pointed out that stringent curbs on groundwater use will have an adverse impact on industrial production and employment.
Similarly, the ministerial group pointed out, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on NGT’s direction devised an arbitrary formula for illegal extraction of groundwater despite it having no authority to do so.
“This formula has neither been validated nor accepted by CGWA. As a result, Industries have to either suffer losses or go into unnecessary litigation,” the report said.
This is not the first time the role and jurisdiction of the NGT are being questioned. The environment ministry has had various run-ins with the NGT, with the former questioning the jurisdiction of NGT to question notifications passed by the central government based on enacted legislations.