October 20, 2010

AFP: India sets up ‘green court’ to make polluters pay

Filed under: Asia, Judges and Prosecutors — Tags: — inece @ 9:03 am

India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh

India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests held a press conference to announce the launch of India’s National Green Tribunal (“NGT”), established to make polluters pay damages as it steps up its policing of the country’s environmental laws. AFP reports that

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said India was only the third country in the world after Australia and New Zealand to set up such a tribunal.  “This is the first body of its kind (in India) to apply the polluter pays principle and the principle of sustainable development,” Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi.  Full AFP article.

Time magazine blog questions whether the new court will “get the job done,” looking at the history of similar bodies created in India, including

the National Environment Tribunal in 1995, established to handle cases arising from accidents during the handling of hazardous materials, and the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) in 1997. “We have not seen these two active, and I have not seen any diagnostic study of why they failed in the first place,” says Sanjay Upadhyay, the founder of India’s first environmental law firm. The effect of the bodies’ failures, says Upadhyay, has been that grievances in environmental cases that should have been filed at the appellate level have often leapfrogged to the higher court systems, including the Supreme Court. That court has been praised for its proactive approach in environmental cases; the court’s interpretation of the Indian constitution’s guarantee of the “Right to Life” includes the right to a healthy, pollution-free environment.  However, Upadhyay says, the high courts’ rulings on sweeping environmental issues like sustainable development and the precautionary principle are often too broad to be properly managed at the ground level.

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