New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT)
has held that any citizen can approach it for protection of
environment, regardless of whether he is directly affected by
a developmental project or whether he is a resident of the
"In environmental issues, any individual or any body of
individuals can agitate as to the correctness of the study on
environment and ecology made by the authority giving clearance
to the project," said an NGT bench of Justice C V Ramulu and
member Devendra Kumar Agrawal.
"It may also not be proper for this tribunal to reject an
application on the ground that applicant is not a resident of
the area or not directly injured or aggrieved," it said.
The NGT ruling came on a plea by three environmentalists
challenging the environment clearance given for deforestation
of 80.5 hectares of government forest land for construction of
a dam for hydroelectric power across river Alakhnanda in
Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
The plea had been made by environmentalists Vimal Bhai,
Briharshraj Singh Tariyal and Bharat Jhunjhunwala, a former
professor of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore,
challenging the clearance granted by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests (MoEF) on June 3, 2011.
Dismissing the government`s plea that petitioners were
not directly affected by the project, the bench said the
persons living in the vicinity of the proposed project may not
know about its intrinsic scientific details and effects or any
disaster, it may cause.
Therefore, the concept of "person aggrieved" should be
liberal in environment related cases, said the bench seeking
to widen the ambit of the persons affected by a project.
"A combined reading of the preamble and provisions of the
NGT Act, 2010 would reveal that this tribunal has got vast
jurisdiction to decide environmental disputes such as
enforcement of legal rights relating to environment, damages
to persons and property, compensation, and matters connected
therewith and incidental thereto including conservation of
natural resources," the NGT said.
"Keeping this in view, we have to examine the case on
hand," it added, turning down the government`s plea to not to
entertain the environmentalists` petition.
The NGT also rejected government`s contention that they
have cleared the project after proper scientific study.
"No scientific study assumes finality as with progress of
time our knowledge and understanding of the subject matter
undergoes metamorphoses with new evidence," it said.
"The nature has been created over lakhs of thousands of
years and such nature cannot be allowed to do away with one
stroke of pen, in the guise of development, without properly
examining the environmental and ecological impact of the
The NGT, which was established by NGT Act of 2010, is
dedicated to adjudicating environmental issues and is
empowered to pass orders in conformity with "the polluters pay
principle" and the principle of sustainable development.
The tribunal is the third of its kind in the world after
the ones set up in Australia and New Zealand.