The National Green Tribunal Act got the assent of the President on 2nd June, 2010.
Section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act deals with the “Relief, compensation and restitution”, in its Sub-section 4, refers to Schedule II that mentions the “Heads under which compensation or relief for damage may be claimed” so as to provide compensation or relief to the claimants and for restitution of the damaged property or environment, as the Tribunal may think fit.
Heads under which compensation or relief for damage may be claimed include, (a) Death; (b) Permanent, temporary, total or partial disability or other injury or sickness; (c) Loss of wages due to total or partial disability or permanent or temporary disability; (d) Medical expenses incurred for treatment of injuries or sickness; (e) Damages to private property; (f) Expenses incurred by the Government or any local authority in providing relief, aid and rehabilitation to the affected persons;(g) Expenses incurred by the Government for any administrative or legal action or to cope with any harm or damage, including compensation for environmental degradation and restoration of the quality of environment; (h) Loss to the Government or local authority arising out of, or connected with, the activity causing any damage; (i) Claims on account of any harm, damage or destruction to the fauna including milch and draught animals and aquatic fauna; (j) Claims on account of any harm, damage or destruction to flora including aquatic flora, crops, vegetables, trees and orchards;(k) Claims including cost of restoration on account of any harm or damage to environment including pollution of soil, air, water, land and eco-systems; (l) Loss and destruction of any property other than private property; (m) Loss of business or employment or both and (n) Any other claim arising out of, or connected with, any activity of handling of hazardous substance.
Sadly, the Act has not taken cognizance of the work of INTERPOL Environmental Crime Committee which along with its Wildlife Crime Working Group and Pollution Crime Working Group has been identifies emerging patterns and trends in the field of environmental crime enforcement in INTERPOL’s 188 member countries. The Tribunal should have been given the task of facilitating prosecutions of environmental criminals behind offences which pose environmental and health risks. forensics as a crucial component to successful environmental prosecutions.
Section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act deals with the “Relief, compensation and restitution”, in its Sub-section 4, refers to Schedule II that mentions the “Heads under which compensation or relief for damage may be claimed” so as to provide compensation or relief to the claimants and for restitution of the damaged property or environment, as the Tribunal may think fit. This does not include damages resulting from violation of international environmental agreements.
Section 17 of the Act deals with the “Liability to pay relief or compensation in certain cases” underlining that it will only deal with the violations of seven environmental and public liability Insurance laws on water pollution, forest conservation, air pollution, environment protection biological diversity specified in Schedule I of the Act. The Act does not recognize that environmental crime is considered a serious crime, very often connected to organized crime and deals only with civil damages. One is afraid that mere civil damages might end up being part of initiatives for “responsible care” through Charter on “Corporate Responsibility for. Environmental Protection (CREP) launched by Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) in March 2003.
Section 17 of the Act deals with the “Liability to pay relief or compensation in certain cases”, its Sub-section 1 reads: “Where death of, or injury to, any person (other than a workman) or damage to any property or environment has resulted from an accident or the adverse impact of an activity or operation or process, under any enactment specified in Schedule I, the person responsible shall be liable to pay such relief or compensation for such death, injury or damage, under all or any of the heads specified in Schedule II, as may be determined by the Tribunal.” Schedule I lists seven Acts including, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
The Act is silent on how it will deal with damages arising out of non-point source pollution that come from several sources, viz., runoff from farmland (fertilizers, manure), industrial runoff (heavy metals, phosphorous), urban runoff (oils, salts, various chemicals) and atmospheric fallout of airborne pollution. It is the hardest to control but the Tribunal does not even attempt to deal with it. The point source pollution, in contrast, is pollution from a direct source like a factory outfall pipe, the Tribunal can deal with it in a limited way.
One wonders as to how the Tribunal will deal with the enrichment of water by nutrients, especially compounds of nitrogen and phosphorus that causes an accelerated growth of algae and higher forms of plant life to produce an undesirable disturbance to the balance of organisms and the quality of the water (Eutrophication) and the resulting damage to environmental health.
The Companies Bill, 2009 must enacted in such a way that it bans corporate contributions to political parties. If that is done National Green Tribunal can become effective.
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