The Tribunal, set up to look into cases relating to the environment, has only four judicial members and two experts across India.

National Green Tribunals lone member in the Southern Bench retires 500 cases hit
news Environment Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - 15:32

The sole judicial member of the Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal has retired, which may leave 500 cases in the lurch according to one report.

On Tuesday, Justice MS Nambiar retired, in a move that leaves the Southern Bench, based in Chennai, with no judicial members.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), set up to handle the expeditious disposal of cases pertaining to environmental issues, requires a judicial member and an expert member to be on the bench for judgements.

However, since June, Justice Nambiar has been the only judicial member. In November, Justice PS Rao, an expert member, retired bringing an end to the quorum required to constitute hearings.

Environmentalists and the media have been cautioning the Ministry of Environment and Forests regarding the dwindling members both at the capital as well as other benches across the country. It appears that, as of now, only the Bhopal bench and the New Delhi principal bench are staffed.

The National Green Tribunal currently has four judicial members and two expert members for all of India.

Speaking to TNM, DK Patnaik, the Assistant Registrar at the Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal, said, "It has already been advertised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Applications for eight posts of judicial members and eight posts of expert members have been applied for. Now the screening is going on at New Delhi, I think. By the end of March, it will be decided.”

When asked how many cases remain affected in the interim, he said he did not know.

“The government knew that the term of the judges and expert members would end soon. Despite that, they have not appointed new members. Should the people from the Southern zone go to the Central zone? This is going to affect those fighting for environmental justice. This is a systematic way of dismantling the institution to disempower people,” said Shweta Narayan, an environmentalist.

In December 2017, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre regarding the shortage of members in the NGT. The reason behind the delay in the appointments appears to be the government’s efforts to change the process itself.

The Centre aims to have a five-member panel, headed by the Chief Justice of India, to appoint a chairperson of the Tribunal.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.