NGT bans construction work and emission causing industrial activities in light of preventive and precautionary principles and right to life

National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench: In the wake of smog engulfing the NCR for days, posing a serious environmental hazard, the NGT banned all construction work in the area till the next date of hearing. The Tribunal stated that the right to decent and clean environment is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and that Article 48-A read with Article 21 mandates the State to protect the environment and Article 51-A(g) imposes a fundamental duty upon the citizens to protect the environment.

The Tribunal took note of the statistical data available on suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the NCR for 08-11-2017 and 09-11-2017.On 08-11-2017, the PM10 value was 986 mcg (micro grams) per cubic metre against the prescribed value of 100 mcg per cubic metre and the PM2.5 value was 425 mcg per cubic metre against the prescribed value of 60 mcg per cubic metre. The values were 1136 mcg per cubic metre and 760 mcg per cubic metre respectively on 09-11-2017. The Tribunal also noted that all parameters including SO2, NO2, CO and Ozone were not tested by the Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee, directing the boards to submit reports containing all parameters on the next date of hearing. Citing the doctrines of preventive and precautionary principles with emphasis on inter-generational equity, the Tribunal stated that the doctrines have been violated at all relevant stages and that no party, statutory body or even the citizens can be mere spectators to the environmental crisis at hand.

The Tribunal pointed towards it’s directions in Vardhman Kaushik v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 4176, on 10.11.2016 stating that the steps that were required to be taken in long and short term remained unexecuted and non-complied with. Failing to find a single plausible explanation as to why the directions in the aforesaid order were not complied with, the Tribunal clearly stated that fundamental rights, particularly the ones which relate to right to life cannot be subjected to economic limitation.

Resultantly, the Tribunal, in an attempt to alleviate the harmful effects of smog and pollution, banned all construction activity in the entire NCR region till the next date of hearing. The Tribunal added that labourers shall not be denied their daily wages. Further, all industrial activities which release emission were also prohibited till the next date of hearing. Further, all the Corporations dealing in health, environment and development were directed to constitute teams to visit different areas under their jurisdiction to check burning of waste or any material in any part of NCR. [Vardhaman Kaushik v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine NGT 7584, order dated 09.11.2017]

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