NGT fined Rs.500 Cr. on Volkswagen
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slammed a Rs 500 Crore penalty on Volkswagen for installing ‘Cheat Devices’ in their cars which helped the company cheat through emission tests. NGT has directed Volkswagen to pay the penalty in a matter of two months’ time.
This comes after when NGT had slammed the German auto major for not depositing Rs 100 crore in accordance with its November 16, 2018 order and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours on January 18, 2019.
On November 16 last year, the tribunal had said that the use of ‘cheat device’ by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to the inference of environmental damage and had asked Volkswagen to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
In the US and Canada alone, the German automaker has to pay a $2.8 billion fine, and therefore the NGT’s latest recommendations could come as a major blow to the company.
Volkswagen pleaded guilty in 2017 as part of a $4.3 billion US settlement. In total, nine people have been charged in the diesel emissions scandal and two former executives have been sentenced to serve the jail terms.
National Green Tribunal:
- The NGT was established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, passed by the Central Government.
- The stated objective of the Central Government was to provide a specialized forum for effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment protection, conservation of forests and for seeking compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws or conditions specified while granting permissions.
- The Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in the National Capital – New Delhi, with regional benches in :
- Pune (Western Zone Bench),
- Bhopal (Central Zone Bench),
- Chennai (Southern Bench) and
- Kolkata (Eastern Bench).
- Each Bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States in a region. There is also a mechanism forcircuit benches.
- The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Head Quartered in Delhi. Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts.
- Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member.
- Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.
Legal jurisdiction of NGT:
The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977; (yes, cess act)
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; (aka EPA)
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991; (good option to confuse)
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
NOTE: 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. Therefore, specific and substantial issues related to these laws cannot be raised before the NGT.
Principles of Justice adopted by NGT:
- The NGT isnot bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- NGT is also not boundby the rules of evidence as enshrined in the IndianEvidence Act, 1872. Thus, it will be relatively easier for conservation groups to present facts and issues before the NGT, including pointing out technical flaws in a project, or proposing alternatives that could minimize environmental damage but which have not been considered.
- While passing Orders/decisions/awards, the NGT will apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principles.
Review and Appeal:
Orders can be appealed to the Supreme Court within 90 days.
- Fine on the Art of Living Foundation as environmental compensation for holding a World Cultural Festival on the eco-sensitive floodplains of the Yamuna river.
- The Kochi circuit bench of the NGT banned all diesel vehicles more than 10 years old from operating in six cities in Kerala.
- Ban on diesel cars in the Delhi region last year. It is expected to extend this to 15 major Indian cities with the worst air quality levels later this year.
- The NGT has also passed various prohibitory orders against sand mining in riverbeds that is being done without environmental clearance.
- It has imposed a no-construction zone of 75 metres around lakes and storm water drains in Bengaluru.
Central Pollution Control Board
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisationunder the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
- It was established in 1974under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974.
- CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
- It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.