by Sara Vinson

In the absence of an effective environmental tribunal, India’s Supreme Court has established a “green bench” within the Court. The bench was created about fifteen years ago, and has since issued many judgments and orders aiding in environmental conservation.  Now, Chief Justice Kapadia has announced the creation of a second “green bench” within the Court.  The second bench has been deemed necessary, as the number of environmental cases being lodged has significantly increased in past years.

C.J. Kapadia will head one bench, which will hear cases on Fridays pertaining to mining in forests and large development projects.  Justice Reddy will head the second bench, which will hear all other cases on Mondays.  Justice Reddy’s bench will also hear any matters relating to the implementation of directives issued by the former single bench.  The bench is currently handling two very high-profile cases.  The first deals with a proposed memorial park–which would include statues of various leaders–located very close to a bird sanctuary.  Several environmentalists are opposing construction of this park.  The second case involves limestone mining operations of French cement company Lafarge SA in northeast India.

India’s new National Green Tribunal should be established by the end of 2010.  The development of this tribunal, however, does not mean the end for the “green bench.”  The Supreme Court will still serve as the final court of appeals for the Tribunal’s decisions.  India is one of several countries that has created specialized environmental courts and tribunals in the past several years.  Other countries include Australia (Land and Environment Court of New South Wales), England and Wales, and the Philippines.