Soon people in remote parts of India will be able to send an email to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) seeking justice. “Another thing which we are going to introduce is to provide access to far-off areas, by online access to justice or online decision-making,” said NGT chairperson Justice A K Goel, adding that the tribunal is working out how best to implement this.
“You can send an email from your mobile or your laptop, from anywhere in the country, and from that we will give a direction.”
The NGT has been riddled with vacancies since late last year. Justice Goel, who was speaking at a national conference on innovations in pollution regulation organised by the UChicago Centre, said the NGT was without a chairperson since December, 2017. “We have a strength of minimum 21, and maximum 41, but we have at the moment only six members. There has to be one expert member, one judicial member (in each bench), but there are only 2 expert members (in all) so there can’t be more than two benches.”
Since before Justice Goel took over as NGT chairperson in July, the four regional benches — Pune, Bhopal, Chennai and Kolkata – were lying closed. “When I took over, I found this situation, if they are lying closed so what will happen to environmental issues? Now we have opened all the four benches with the existing strength by having hearing on video conferencing. Everyday we are hearing cases from Pune, Bhopal, Chennai and Kolkata by by video conferencing, some important issues that are lying vacant,” he said.
Justice Goel noted that the NGT was not merely “understaffed” but that the issue was also of “lack of dedication” and “credibility.” “Video conference is only communication, not a tool that will abate pollution. Communication is important to highlight what the issues are, but manning of pollution control boards for implementation is very important,” he said.
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