NGT can suo moto take cognisance of environmental problems, rules SC

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the National Green Tribunal can take suo motu cognisance (on the basis of letters and representations) and can initiate proceedings on its behalf on environmental issues.

A.M. Khanwilkar and Hrishikesh Ray, as well as C.T. Ravikumar ruled on a series of petitions that raised the question whether the NGT is subject to suo motu jurisdiction.

Sanjay Parikh, a senior advocate, argued that the NGT was given the power to make orders for the restitution and protection of the environment. Therefore, it has suo motu power. A number of senior advocates rejected his arguments. They stated that only constitutional courts have suo motu power and that a statutory tribunal such as the NGT must act within the limits of its parent law.

Aishwarya Bhati (additional solicitor general) represented the Centre and argued that the NGT doesn’t have the power to decide a matter. She also argued that procedural restrictions cannot limit the tribunal’s power.

“This is an unusual tribunal dealing with environmental issues. She said that environment often ends up being someone else’s baby.

The bench had questioned her about whether the tribunal would be obligated to initiate process if it received information relating to environment. The ASG replied that it was within the tribunal’s power to accept any communication or letter once it has been received.

The bench reserved its verdict on the matter on September 8. Anand Grover, senior advocate in the case, was amicus curiae. He argued that the NGT could not exercise suo motu power on the basis letters, representations or media reports.