What Are the Principles of Justice Adopted by NGT?

The National Green Tribunal was established on 18th October 2010 under the said Act named National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 for speedy and effective disposal of cases regarding the environmental protection and conservation of natural resources such as forests. It includes enforcement of any kind of legal right in relation to the environment and providing damages to individuals and property and for matters regarding the relationship between them. It is a well known specialized body which is equipped with the required expertise of handling environmental disputes including multi-disciplinary issues. Under Section 19(1) of the said Act[1], it clearly states that “The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice.” In addition to that, section 19(3) of the Act states that “The Tribunal shall also not be bound by the rules of evidence contained in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872).”

The jurisdiction of this Tribunal relates to the environmental matters which shall provide expeditious environmental justice so that there can be reduced in the burden of litigation of the higher courts. The Tribunal made it compulsory to endeavour for disposal of the number of applications and appeals within 6 months of filing the same. The NGT initially had proposed to get set up at five places of sittings which will follow circuit procedure so as to make it more accessible. New Delhi is the key place of sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other four places of sitting of the Tribunal.

As mentioned earlier in the stated Act, the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 under Section 19 strengthens the Tribunal power by letting it regulate its own procedure. In addition to that, the Tribunal is not restrained under the procedure provided by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and is thus, guided by principles of natural justice. However, the Tribunal has the power of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure in lieu of discharging its functions.[2]

Natural justice precisely means to make an adequate and reasonable decision-making procedure on a specific issue. Occasionally, it doesn’t matter what the reasonable decision is but in the end, what significantly matters is the procedure and the people engaged in taking those reasonable decisions. It isn’t restricted within the scope of ‘fairness’ as it has different colours and shades which can vary from the context.

Democratically, natural justice has 3 rules which are as follows:

Firstly, the “Hearing rule” states that an individual or party who is being affected by the decision making which is made by the panel of expert members should be given an unbiased opportunity to express their point of view so as to defend themselves.

Secondly, the “Bias rule” in general expresses that panel of expert members who are supposed to be unbiased while doing the decision making procedure. The decision should be given in a manner which is fair in nature and which can essentially fulfil the rule of natural justice.

Lastly, the “Reasoned Decision” states the decree and judgement of the court given by the different presiding authorities with an appropriate and reasonable ground.[3]

In India, the origin of the concept came into force at an early time. In the case of Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner[4], the court held that the concept of impartiality should be there in every action whether it is judicial, quasi-judicial, administrative or quasi-administrative work.

Therefore, the NGT is not bound by the said procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but it shall be guided by the principles of natural justice. Moreover, NGT is not bound by the rule of evidence as well stated in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Hence, it will be in general a bit easier (as opposed to approaching the court) for conservative groups to place facts and issues before the NGT, which would involve pointing out the technical flaws in a project or proposing substitutes that could lessen the environmental damage which has not been considered yet.

While passing decree, the NGT shall apply the principles of sustainable development, precautionary principles and the polluter paid principles.

Moreover, it should be noted that if the NGT holds a claim to be false, it can impose costs which includes lost benefits due to any kind of interim injunction.[5]

In the case of Nikunj Developers & others v. the State of Maharashtra and Another[6], the court stated that the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board filed a complaint of the Court of law would be considered under Section 19(a) of the Act for the offences committed by M/s. Veena Developers under Section 15 of the Act read with the said notification and to initiate a further line of action in Court of law.


[1] National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.

[2] Methodology of NGT, NGT, https://greentribunal.gov.in/methodology-ngt.

[3] Anjali Dhingra, Principles of Natural Justice, IPLEADERS (June 12, 2019), https://blog.ipleaders.in/natural-justice/.

[4] (1978) AIR 851.

[5] Praveen Bhargav, Everything you need to know about NGT, CONSERVATION INDIA, https://www.conservationindia.org/resources/ngt.

[6] (2012) NGT.

This article is authored by, Jahnvi Pandey student of First-Year BA.LLB. (Hons.) university of petroleum and energy studies.

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