Shimla (Oct 21): Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta, who retired as a Supreme Court judge this year, has been appointed chairperson of India’s first environmental court ‘National Green Tribunal’ (NGT) notified on October 18, 2010.
Hailing from Jubbal-Kotkhai area of Himachal Pradesh, Justice Panta obtained his LLB degree from Delhi University (1970), remained advocate general of Himachal (88-89), judge of HP high court (91-95) and was elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2006 before retiring this year.
After appointment of chairperson, the Union environment ministry would appoint the judicial and technical members of the tribunal through a selection committee and in consultation with Justice Panta devise a transparent set of rules to select judicial and expert members, Union minister Jai Ram Ramesh has been stated announced recently.
A minimum of ten judicial and ten expert members will have to be appointed. The tribunal’s chairperson may, if he considers it necessary, send an invite to persons with specialized knowledge and experience to assist in particular cases. Justice Panta will remain its chairperson for five years as per the law. The legislation setting up NGT, a specialised court for dealing with environment issues, was passed by both Houses of Parliament earlier this year and received the President’s assent on June 2.
The Green Tribunal is likely to unburden courts in the country as it would take over 5,600 cases related to environment as these cases would be transferred to NGT. Moreover, Himachal Pradesh High Court has already taken lead in this regard by constituting a green bench five month ago.
Anyone can knock the doors of NGT on grievances that involve the environment as it has the powers of a high court and it can penalize and convict the violator. Its verdict could be challenged only in the Supreme Court. Individuals, organisations, civil society and governments can approach the tribunal for redressal.