Sunday, January 29, 2023

Can NGT take suo motu cognizance? Supreme Court seeks submissions to decide matter

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The Supreme Court has allowed time to file short written submissions in a plea asking if the National Green Tribunal can take suo motu cognizance or not.

The matter was listed before the bench of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjiv Khanna where the principal question before the Supreme Court was whether the NGT has jurisdiction under the provisions of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 to take suo motu proceedings. The arguments were led by Senior Advocate A.N.S. Nadkarni and Senior Advocate Anand Grover had been appointed as Amicus Curiae in the matter.

Nadkarni submitted that the Tribunal does not have any power to take suo motu cognizance, and the Amicus informed the Court that he shares this opinion. During the course of the proceedings, it was argued by Nadkarni that the tribunals are to be distinguished from civil courts and that the tribunals are meant to determine the dispute between persons. For this, there is a necessity of a complaint. He argued before the Court that the powers of the NGT cannot be compared to that of a constitutional court under Article 32 or Article 226. He emphasised that the entire scheme of the NGT Act should be seen.

In this regard, the Court noted that Section 14 of the NGT Act which deals with settlement of disputes should be read with section 15 (1) (a) which speaks about providing relief and compensation to a ‘victim’ of pollution and not ‘applicant’ before the tribunal. Further, that the Tribunal is mandated to have jurisdiction over all substantial questions relating to the environment, and that the purpose and intent must be kept in mind.

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Owing to the importance of the question and multiple connected matters and after granting liberty to Nadkarni to file a compilation of judgments to buttress his arguments, the Court has directed the parties involved to file short written submissions not exceeding five pages on or before August 10 while listing the matter for further hearing on August 25. 

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