Green tribunal bill

Fails to address core concerns

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Monday 15 March 2010

imageThe Union environment ministry has proposed changes in the National Green Tribunal Bill that provides for a tribunal to decide on civil disputes relating to environment. One of the significant amendments proposed in the new draft is that decisions of the tribunal can be challenged in the Supreme Court; the earlier draft said the tribunal’s decision would be final and binding.

The amendments follow the recommendations of a standing committee of Parliament to which the bill was referred in July 2009.

They are now open to public comments and are available on the ministry website.
Activists said the amendments still do not address some core concerns. For instance, the bill is vague about the tribunal’s mandate and merely states it will deal with substantial questions of environment without defining what they are, said Gopal Krishna of Ban Asbestos Network of India.

“The bill treats environmental crimes as a civil liability and omits criminal liability aspect,” he added. The bill has incorporated an additional clause that says the tribunal will follow the principles of polluter pays and sustainable development. But then the tribunal will only look at single point sources of pollution and not cases where there may be multiple points of pollution, said Krishna.

The bill favours retired officials as members rather than experts in the field of science and environment.

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