The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has power to take suo motu cognisance - on the basis of letters, representations, and media reports -- and can initiate proceedings on its own on issues pertaining to the environment.
A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy, and C.T. Ravikumar delivered the judgment on a batch of petitions which raised the issue whether the NGT has suo motu jurisdiction.
Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh had argued that the NGT has been conferred powers to pass orders for the restitution of the environment, hence it can exercise suo motu powers. However, a battery of senior advocates opposed his arguments, stating that only constitutional courts can exercise suo motu powers and a statutory tribunal like the NGT has to act within the confines of its parent law.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, held that the NGT does not have the power to take cognisance of a matter on its own. But she also contended that the tribunal's powers cannot be bound by procedural constraints.
"This is a peculiar tribunal dealing with environmental matters. Often, environment ends up being nobody's baby," she said.
The bench had queried her that if the tribunal were to receive an information in connection with environment, will it not be duty bound to initiate process? The ASG responded that once a letter or communication is received by the tribunal, it is within its power to take cognisance of it.
On September 8, the bench had reserved verdict on the issue. Senior advocate Arvind Grover, amicus curiae in the case, had opined that the NGT cannot exercise suo motu powers on the basis of letters, representations, or media reports.