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As Cases Double In India’s Green Court, It Pares Delays

Abhishek Waghmare,
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A festival organised by spiritual guru Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living, on the floodplains of the Yamuna river, near Delhi. The National Green Tribunal, which will deliver a judgement next month, has had as many cases filed before it in 2015-16 as over the last five years.


Within 120 days of first hearing the case, a final verdict on the alleged destruction of a part of the Yamuna’s floodplains for a spiritual festival is due on September 28, 2016, an indication of the speed at which India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) is hearing and passing judgement.


Since 2010, when the NGT was established to exclusively hear cases related to environmental violations, cases before it have risen a hundred fold, until March 2016, according to government data submitted to the Lok Sabha, parliament’s lower house.


Although cases pending in the NGT doubled between 2015 and 2016, as workload grew, the proportion of cases pending reduced from 43% in 2013 to 21% in 2016.


Source: Lok Sabha questions

Note: * As of March 2016, others figures refer for end of calendar year


About 7,700 cases were filed in the NGT till March 2015, since its inception in October 2010. It received roughly the same number of cases (7,300) the following year, 2015-16. As of March 2016, 3,000 cases are pending.


Judicial delays plague most courts in India, as IndiaSpend has reported here, here and here.


India leads world in environmental conflicts, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016.


The Art of Living—promoted by spiritual leader Ravi Shankar—”completely destroyed” the “entire floodplain area used for the main event site”, causing “invisible loss of biodiversity” that “may never be able to return”, according to an NGT-appointed committee of experts quoted in the Indian Express in August 2016.


The Nature Conservancy, an environment conservation advocacy, explains the concept of floodplains and why they are important, in this video:




(Waghmare is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)


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  1. Alok Prasanna Reply

    August 24, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Just thought I’d point out a few concerns I had with the article:

    1. It is claimed that the “cases before it have risen a hundred fold”. This is factually not borne out, because no numbers show us how many cases were filed before the NGT in 2016 (or 2015 for that matter), while we have an annual break up of cases filed in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The figure cited–11,922–refers to *all* cases filed in the NGT including the previous years up to 2011, as is evident from the Lok Sabha answer.

    2. Furthermore, it may not be accurate to compare figures from 2011 to 2015; the more appropriate comparison may be 2012 to a later year. This is because, as the Lok Sabha answer points out, the cases from 2011 were actually carryovers from the previous authority–the NEAA–and the NGT really started functioning only in 2012.

    3. I don’t think proportion of cases, as a total proportion of cases filed historically, gives the correct glimpse of how the court is functioning, especially since we have no idea how many cases are being filed. The percentage of pending cases will always go down for every court after the initial bump in the first few years, and the finding would be entirely trivial. It would make more sense, I think, to compare pending cases with cases instituted to give the proper perspective.

    • Abhishek Reply

      August 24, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Firstly, I thank you for raising the concerns.

      I would like to answer your queries point by point.

      1. The cumulative number of cases till 2015 was 7,700-odd, and it rose to 15,000 in 2016–an increase of around 7,300.

      The first year saw 160 cases lodged in the NGT. You are, thus, right that the number of cases coming to NGT per year increased 40-fold and not 100-fold.

      But, the second para in the story says, “Since 2010, cases have risen hundred fold till 2016.” This is referring to the cumulative figure as we have used ‘since’. If we had said ‘cases per year’, then ‘forty-fold’ would have been the right way to put it. But as we have said ‘since’, hundred fold stands correct.

      2. Even if NGT started operating only in 2012, as you say, it did dispose some cases in 2011 as the data show. The story calculates the performance of NGT only, as to how many cases it did handle.

      3. I understand from this, that you are suggesting to use CASES FILED IN THAT YEAR instead of cumulative cases. My focus is to open up to readers what percentage of cases are pending at that particular point of time.

      In 2014-15, about 1,100 cases were lodged in the NGT taking the cumulative to 7,700. By the end of March 2015, 2,600 cases were pending. In 2015-16, a record 7,300 cases were lodged in one financial year, and at end of March 2016, 3,200 cases were pending.

      This inherently means that, in 2016, a lot of cases were disposed.

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