Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 7
Noting that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) can hardly afford to remain a “mute spectator when no one knocks on its door”, the Supreme Court today ruled that the tribunal has the power to take suo motu action on environmental issues.
Noting that it must adopt an interpretation that sustains the spirit of public good and does not render India’s environmental watchdog “toothless and ineffective”, a Bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar declared “that the NGT is vested with suo motu power in discharge of its functions under the NGT Act, 2010”.
Can’t afford to be mute spectator
The NGT, with the distinct role envisaged for it, can hardly afford to remain a mute spectator when no one knocks on its door. — SC Bench
“It is vital for the wellbeing of the nation and its people, to have a flexible mechanism to address all issues pertaining to environmental damage and resultant climate change, so that we can leave behind a better environmental legacy, for our children, and the generations thereafter,” it noted.
The order came on petitions with regard to the Tribunal’s power to exercise suo motu jurisdiction in discharge of its functions.
Noting that access to justice may be curtailed by illiteracy, lack of mobility, poverty or even lack of technical knowledge on part of citizens, the top court said: “Thus, it may not always be feasible for individuals to knock on the doors of the tribunal, and the NGT in such exigencies must not be made dysfunctional.”
“The NGT, with the distinct role envisaged for it, can hardly afford to remain a mute spectator when no one knocks on its door…The hands-off mode for the NGT, when faced with exigencies requiring immediate and effective response, would debilitate the forum from discharging its responsibility and this must be ruled out in the interest of justice,” the top court said in its 77-page verdict.
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