Amidst growing concern about NGT’s dwindling powers and shrinking strength, environmentalist Akash Vashishtha has written to President Ram Nath Kovind requesting him to resurrect the ailing institution in larger national interest.
Vashishtha, who is also a journalist, has talked about the NGT’s differential treatment towards different aggrieved persons and its failure to follow the principles of Sustainable Development, Precautionary and Polluter Pays Principle in true letter and spirit.
In his letter with subject, “Mal-adjudication of important environment matters, harassment of a common man, failure in rendering environmental justice, improper, unjust and arbitrary functioning by NGT and the like …”, Vashishtha said the NGT has become a place of harassment and agony for a victim of environmental devastation.
Vashishtha raised many important issues of environmental concern over the years, including his legal battles for saving Hindon, Dadri wetlands, greenbelts in Delhi and NCR, concretization, air pollution to name a few.
He, however, said the forum had “badly frustrated me and my efforts”.
“The forum has, instead of delivering justice to the affected and aggrieved people, sadly, become a place of harassment, despair and agony for a victim of environment devastation,” he said.
Quoting the Preamble to the NGT Act, 2010, Vashishtha said, “[F]ormed under one of the most important enactments in the legislative history of the country, NGT has today completely lost direction and purpose.”
“’Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment is not merely a civil right but a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Instead of effective and expeditious disposal, important matters are disposed of irrespective of merits and the legal considerations therein to polish the disposal statistics,” he added.
“Either the tribunal hears 90 cases in half a day or it takes up just 18-19 on a given full day. All these records can be called upon. The tribunal functions as if it’s not a judicial organ but another government office… its judicial and expert members act in an arbitrary, unjust manner, contrary to natural justice, disregarding their own crucial judgments and orders, at times,” he claimed.
Vashishtha, however, stopped short of giving any statistics or examples to support his allegations for the sake of brevity, but added that he could appear before anybody to prove his points.
He also rued the falling standards and strength of the green panel.
“For NGT, one river (for example: Ganga or the Yamuna) has different meanings for different parts and a legal right of a person affected by an issue is discriminated from the right of another person affected by the same issue, elsewhere.
“Numerous citizens are not able to receive justice as the NGT is working at just 1/4th of the sanctioned strength and the government isn’t appointing and having competent, meritorious persons on board,” he complained.
“The nation’s environment and natural resources are in unprecedented stress…I urge Your Excellency to remove all shortcomings in NGT, improve and strengthen this important judicial institution of the country in the national interest,” Vashishtha said.