NEW DELHI, July 4 (IANS): The National Green Tribunal (NGT), a judicial body aimed at expediting environment-related cases, began functioning Monday, an environment ministry official said.
"The first hearing of the NGT began at 11 a.m. today. The tribunal, which will deal with environmental cases, is an independent unit which has been launched with an initial support of the environment ministry," the official told IANS.
Launched last October, the tribunal is headed by former Supreme Court judge L.S. Panta.
Headquartered in Delhi, the NGT will have four circuit branches in the four regions of the country.
"It is an important initiative and India is only the third country after Australia and New Zealand to have a dedicated (green) court. Anybody and everybody can approach the NGT for civil damages arising out of non-implementation of various laws of the environment," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said during the launch of the NGT.
There are about 5,000 environmental cases pending in various courts of the country, he added.