SC: National Green Tribunal Can Register Suo Moto Cases.
Suo Moto in its literal meaning is a Latin term that refers to an action taken by any court or authority by its own volition. In other words, it means, to initiate legal action by itself. Suo Moto is mentioned under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. Hence, it is an action when a High Court or a Supreme Court takes up the matters of a case of their own volition.
Currently, you might have heard the Supreme Court taking Suo Moto cognizance of the Lakhimpur Kheri Violence which resulted in the death of 8 people.
On 7th October 2021, Thursday, the Supreme Court has declared in a judgment that the NGT or the National Green Tribunal has the power of Suo Moto. This means the NGT can take up cases by itself based on letters, media reports, and representations.
Several PILs were filed by Municipal Corporations and others against orders passed by the National Green Tribunal. The Supreme Court on Thursday declared that the NGT can take up cases and pass orders as it deems fit for the welfare of the environment.
In the case of Municipal Corporation of Mumbai v. Ankita Sinha and several other similar cases, the municipal corporation had filed a PIL against the order of the NGT. The NGT passed an order on waste disposal that was given after the tribunal undertook the matter. It was inspired by an article on the same topic by ‘the Quint’.
Another group of appeals was filed against an order passed by the tribunal regarding the minimum distance for quarries in Kerela. The tribunal gave the order to increase the distance between the quarries from the residential area. The matter was taken up by the tribunal based on a letter addressed to the tribunal. The High Court had however held that the NGT has the suo moto jurisdiction.
A group of senior advocates, including the amicus curiae (friend of the court) senior advocate Anand Grover,, argued that only constitutional courts can enjoy the suo moto cognizance.
The Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati maintained that even if the tribunal does not have the suo moto cognizance, it cannot ignore the information related to the environment. The tribunal will be duty-bound to initiate actions.
Also, under section 19 of the National Green Tribunals Act, it is mentioned that the tribunal will be guided by the natural principles of justice and not be bound by the procedure laid down in the CPC.
Hence, the apex court finalized its decision by stating that the green panel can start proceedings of its own volition if it receives or comes across matters of such importance.