New Delhi: India today launched the National Green Tribunal thus becoming the third nation in the world to have special courts for environmental issues.
Former Supreme Court judge Lokeshwar Singh Panta assumed charge as the Chairperson of the Tribunal which will have, to begin with, four regional benches that would function in the circuit mode.
With the Tribunal coming into being, the National Environment Appellate Authority now ceases to exist and all the cases before it have been transferred to the new body.
The Tribunal has been established by the National Green Tribunal Act passed by Parliament earlier this year.
The Tribunal, which shall also consist of members who are experts in the field of environmental and related sciences, has been empowered to issue directions for compensation and restitution of damage caused from actions of environmental
This is the first body of its kind that is required by its parent statute to apply the polluter pays principle and the principle of sustainable development, Environment Minister
Jairam Ramesh told reporters here.
"Anybody and everybody can approach the Tribunal to claim civil damages arising out of inadequate implementation of environment laws," he said.
Australia and New Zealand are the only other countries to have special courts for environment issues, Ramesh said.
Panta, who retired as a Supreme Court Judge in April last year, said it would be his endeavour to try and fulfill the task entrusted to him.
The Tribunal will have 20 members -- 10 from the judiciary and 10 experts in the field of environment.
The provision of circuit benches would impart mobility to the Tribunal and allow them to hear cases at places beyond their original location but within their jurisdiction.
Appeals against the Tribunal can be moved in the Supreme Court.
Panta made it clear that he would not entertain motivated Public Interest Litigations and his years of experience as a Supreme Court judge has enabled him to identify such cases.