Green e-filing reduces clerk’s job but not serve purpose

Will the National Green Tribunal’s e-filing facility launched recently serve the purpose of a building up a healthy environment ? This is what many legal experts and environmentalists ask, pointing out that the Tribunal has lost its sheen as a champion of environment. For many of them, the tribunal was not serving the purpose for which it was established.

Refuting the claims that any person from anywhere could file petitions with the Tribunals from the comforts of his home of office, prominent lawyers who frequent the tribunals opined that the filing of petitions was not an issue but the real question is with respect to speedy trial of the cases.

E-fling facility at the green tribunals was launched last week wherein it was said that any person from any part of the country could file a petition at the NGT or the regional tribunals. Through this facility, there was no need for the counsel to be present in person for filing the case but he could do through e-file.

Talking to, environmentalist and advocate Harish Vasudevan said that e-filing facility launched was only for some name sake. “The real issue is not with filing but with trials. No trial is happening now in the Tribunals but only disposals are happening. Tribunals are meant for trial and not for disposal,” he said.

Noting that the Tribunal has lost its sheen, he alleged that the green Tribunal was not functional now. “They just take one or two cases and just dispose them off. No argument is happening in the Tribunals. The petitioners are not even heard. No detailed argument is happening and the cases are disposed without going into the merits of the matter,” he said.

With respect to the ease in filing through e- facility, Harish Vasudevan said that a petition could even be sent through post office. “So what is the hype in launching e-filing facility?” he asked.

Charging that the authorities want to destroy the tribunal, he alleged that no one was interested in looking into the merits of the case. “They are not at all meeting the purpose of the Tribunals for which it was established,” he said.

Moreover, he argued that the Tribunals should have been made more authoritative and should have taken the cases in its true merit. “E-filing is not going to change anything. Environment cases are to be heard within a short time of 30 days. But there are cases now pending in the Tribunals that are about 30 months old. So what do the Tribunals now stand for?” he asked.

Adding to the lack of spirit, leading advocate in Environment laws, P B Sahasranaman agreed that lots of cases of utmost importance were now pending with the Tribunal. Stating that environment issues had to be dealt in a time bound manner, he said “for instance, a case related to mining or pollution cannot be delayed, Once delayed, the damage might have been already done. After damages done, the purpose of the case is not going to be served,” he said.

On e-filing facility, he said that the authorities should have to come out with more clarity with respect to documentation and other matters.

Stating that filing was not an issue, he said it was the expertise with which the cases are handled. “ E-filing is not going to have any impact. There is much lack of judicial members in taking up the cases. So what is the use of filing more cases if no cases are heard within the time limit,” he said.

Another point that he raised was with respect to arguments in a court room that was the real spirit in cases. “We have a judicial system where we communicate in court rooms. There is a system where the cases are argued in courts. Many things happen during oral arguments,” he said.

When asked if e-filing would serve any purpose, Sahasranaman said that e-filing and video conferencing was not going to be a solution to the various cases.  E-filing may only reduce the job of a clerk but will not serve the purpose unless the cases are handled in its true spirit. “If tribunals are not properly working, then what is the use filing cases. Not proper consideration of argument and lack of time is what haunts the Tribunals,” he said.  

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