National Green Tribunal
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The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal has taken suo moto cognisance of the death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala and appointed a joint committee to ascertain the facts and to recommend the steps to be taken to prevent man-animal conflict in the future.
- An elephant died in the Velliyar stream at Ambalappara near Thiruvizhamkunnu forest station recently apparently after having sustained wounds in its mouth a few days earlier. The wound was presumably caused by some explosives set as a trap by local farmers against wild animals.
- On postmortem, the elephant was found to have been pregnant and that its jaw bone was broken. When the incident came to light about a week later, a nationwide hue and cry was raised over the killing of the animal.
Can NGT intervene in this case?
- Even though, NGT does not have a direct jurisdiction over the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, it has the power to be guided by the principles of natural justice to wield justice under Environment Protection Act and Biological Diversity Act.
- In its order, the green tribunal felt that its intervention was needed to provide some long-term strategy to minimise the man-animal conflict in protected areas and fringe villages adjoining forests.
About National Green Tribunal
- It is a specialised body set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010) for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
- The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
- The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving substantial question relating to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment).
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, but shall be guided by principles of ‘natural justice’.
- The NGT deals with civil cases under the seven laws related to the environment, these include – The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977; The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and; The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- The NGT has not been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.
About Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
- The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted for protection of plants and animal species. Among other reforms, the Act established schedules of protected plant and animal species; hunting or harvesting these species was largely outlawed.
- Key Provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act –
- Schedule I and II are the most potent sections of the act. This section covers animals which are in the category of endangered species. The sections in this schedule give absolute protection to certain species and these cannot be infringed on any account.
- Schedule III and IV – These also have roughly the same provisions of Section I and II, but cover animals that are not in danger of becoming extinct. The penalties under this section are also less than Schedule I and II.
- Schedule V delineates animals that can be hunted like ducks and deer’s. For this purpose the hunter has to apply for a license to the District Forest Officer who will allow a hunter to shoot during a specific season and restricted area. Any infringement can lead to cancellation of the hunting license.
- Schedule VI concerns cultivation and plant life and gives teeth to setting up more protected animal parks.