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National Green Tribunal: While dealing with the issue relating to eligibility for appointment of Chairman/ Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board, the Tribunal held that the Pollution Boards constituted by the State Governments/ Union Territories shall be strictly in accordance to Section 4 of the Water Act and Section 5 of the Air Act.

In the present case, a challenge has been made to the constitution of State Pollution Control Board mainly on the ground that person who do not qualify in terms of Section 4 of the Water (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1974 and Section 5 of the Air (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1981 are being appointed as Chairman/Member Secretary of the Board. The case of the applicant is that there is no infrastructure of professional and technical officer in the Environment department of the State Government and State Board. Manpower in the State Board is almost same as in 2000 and is highly insufficient and in-competent to cope up with thousands of industries and development centres which have now been established. Further the applicant stated that rehabilitation and rebuilding of infrastructure in the State is being planned and executed by IAS/IFS officers having administrative/Forest background only. The knowledge and practical experience of IFS officers in implementation of Forest Conservation/Wildlife Protect/Bio-diversity Act, which is only 10% of total Environment, cannot fulfil the requirement of professional knowledge and expertise of environment as required under Water and Air Protection Act and the Rules made thereunder. According to the applicant, the State Government violated the provisions of Water Act, 1974 and Air Act, 1981 and the Principal Secretary, Forest and Environment, Government of Uttarakhand had illegally nominated himself as Chairman and 10 others, by their designation, as Members of the State Pollution Control Board. The appointment/nominations of Chairman and Member Secretary should have been of the persons who were having special knowledge and practical experience in environment and that of other members as per the relevant provision. It should not have been on the basis of their designation, by virtue of service in the State Government

The Tribunal after perusal of the argument advanced issued certain guidelines to the State Governments/Union Territories in order to maintain the smooth functioning of State Pollution Control Boards,

  • The State Governments/ Union Territories shall constitute the Pollution Control Boards strictly in accordance to Section 4 of the Water Act and Section 5 of the Air Act, and the eligibility criteria as aforesaid, for appointment of Chairman/Member Secretary of the Board.
  • The State Government is to ensure that the person manning the post of Chairman/Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board are competent and eligible with requisite knowledge or practical experience in the field of environment protection and pollution control, with experience of management.
  • The appointment as a, Chairman or Member Secretary, should be of persons who are having special knowledge or practical experience or qualification in environment protection studies and not by virtue of their designation in service of the State Government like Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary, Environment Secretary or even Politician like former Speaker, Minister, M.L.A, all literary persons and non-technical persons.
  • The State Government are to notify the rules under Water and Air Act expeditiously specifying the qualifications and experiences required for the post of Chairman/ Member Secretary. The post of Chairman/ Member Secretary should be advertised and thrown open for all candidates irrespective of the fact whether they are in the Government, Academia or in private sector, so as to attract the best talent to man the said post.
  • The nominated Chairman/Member Secretary should have a fixed term of office which should not be extended for more than one term. Such persons should not hold office in the Board in accordance to their tenure in State Government.
  • Once a person having requisite eligibility is appointed as Chairman/Member Secretary in the State Pollution Control Board, he is to continue for full tenure and the same is not to be curtailed by removal or by repatriated before its completion, unless there are charges of misconduct or cogent reasons which are to be placed on record. Completion of tenure as Chairman/ Member Secretary of the Board, not only gives security of service to the persons who are appointed but it is essential for efficiency of work and smooth functioning of the Board. A tenure unaffected by political and bureaucratic interference would be extremely important for the officials to function fearlessly and in accordance to the mandate of the legislation as given under relevant Environmental Protection Laws like Water Act, Air Act etc.
  • The State Government is to develop the infrastructure in the State Board by professional and technical officers who are efficient and competent to cope-up with increase of industries and development centres. They should ensure adequate manpower for the purpose of execution of provision of the relevant law.
  • The State Government should have latest equipped laboratories for analysis of samples of trade effluents etc.
  • The State Government is to ensure strict compliance of Section 8 of Water Act and Section 10 of the Air Act so that a meeting of the State Pollution Control Boards are held regularly and in accordance with law.
  • The State Governments and all concerned Authorities shall act in accordance with the directions contained in this judgement particularly paragraph 148 of the Judgment.
  • The State Government and all competent Authorities shall proceed to make appointment/ nomination of the Members of the Board as per categorisation and subject to the limitations of number provided under Section 4 and 5 of the Act of 1974 and 1981 respectively as expeditiously as possible, in any case not later than three months from the date of pronouncement of this Judgment.

[Rajendra Singh Bhandari v. State of Uttarakhand, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 456, decided on 24th August, 2016]

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National Green Tribunal : While observing that, “no party from any country in the world has the right/privilege to sail an unseaworthy ship to the Contiguous and Exclusive Economic Zone of India and in any event to dump the same in such waters, causing marine pollution, damage or degradation thereof”, CIC imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 100 crore upon a Panama-based shipping company and its two Qatar-based sister concerns for causing an oil spill when a cargo vessel sank off the Mumbai coast in Year 2011. The three companies, Republic of Panama’s Delta Shipping Marine Services SA, Qatar-based Delta Navigation WLL and Delta Group International, were fined for pollution caused to the marine environment due to the oil spill. Gujarat-based Adani Enterprises Ltd. was also asked to pay Rs five crore as environmental compensation for dumping 60054 MT Coal in the seabed and causing pollution of marine environment. Earlier, the ship, which was sailing from Indonesia to Dahej in Gujarat, sank 20 nautical miles off the South Mumbai coast in the Arabian Sea on August 4, 2011. The vessel was owned by Delta Shipping Marine Services SA while Delta Navigation WLL and Delta Group International were responsible for its voyage. The ship was also carrying more than 60,000 metric tonnes of coal for Adani Enterprises Ltd. thermal power plant in Gujarat besides containing 290 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel. In an application filed by an environment activist before NGT, it was alleged that as a result of the oil spill, there has been damage to mangroves and marine ecology of the Bombay coast. While hearing the application, NGT pondered upon the question of public importance and significance of environmental jurisprudence, in relation to pollution caused by sinking of ship and oil spill in the Territorial Water, Contiguous Zone and Exclusive Economic Zone of the country (India) and consequences and liabilities arising there from. After perusing the relevant material on record, NGT noted that, “The reports on record clearly show that the documents in favour of the ship were issued in a biased manner and the ship was not seaworthy, right from the inception of its voyage.” The Tribunal also noted that there was serious marine pollution caused by the oil spill and continuous pollution will result from the ship and its cargo. While holding the companies guilty, NGT held that it was a clear case of negligence and sinking of a ship cannot be caused by “accident simpliciter”. NGT added that in this case element of mens rea can be traced from the unfolding of the events that finally led to the sinking of the ship and imposed fine upon the companies. [Samir Mehta v. Union of India, 2014 SCC OnLine NGT 927, decided on August 23, 2016]

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National Green Tribunal (NGT): NGT has imposed heavy penalty upon thirteen industries located in Ullal Taluk, Dakshina Kannada District, Mangaluru, for having operated the fish meal and fish oil production units without taking adequate pollution control measures. A penalty of Rs 8 lakhs each was imposed upon five fish meal and fish oil manufacturing units where as Rs 5 lakhs each were slapped upon the rest eight fish meal and fish oil manufacturing units under the “Polluter Pays Principle”. The local residents who filed the application before NGT alleged that the respondent industries which were located in an ecologically fragile area emit Sox, Nox, CO, dimethylamine, triethylamine and hydrogen sulphide molecules and particulars from boilers, which were so extreme that it remains in the cloths even after several washes. Malodour comes from the raw material in the manufacturing process i.e., fish and from the wastewater sludge. The sludge generated from various stages of production has high level of organic matter contains traces of ammonia, phosphorous, nitrogen, dimethylamine and triethylamine resulting in change in aquatic environment by disrupting natural movement and migration of aquatic populations. A number of chemical compounds were formed during the bacteriological decomposition of the fish before it is cooked, which are volatile and if discharged without treatment they cause pollution to the marine environment.  After perusal of material on record, NGT observed that inspection reports of officials of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) showed that Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) of the Units suffered from various shortcomings and was not properly maintained. Even after a number of notices from KSPCB, defects of CETP were not rectified. “The respondent fish meal and fish oil manufacturing units indulged in negligence, violated the pollution control norms thereby causing pollution to the adjacent estuary waters by discharging untreated effluents and also caused nuisance and health hazard to the nearby residents by emanating malodour and stench. Inspite of repeated notices and directions given by various authorities they did not mend their ways and continued to operate the units in utter disregard of the environmental concerns. It is pertinent to note that the KSPCB itself on several occasions found that the respondent industries have failed to establish the CETP inspite of several directions issued from time to time. And even after installation of CETP it was not properly maintained. We, therefore, feel that it is a fit case to invoke the ‘Polluter pays’ principle against the respondents,” NGT noted in its order and slapped fine upon the thirteen fish meal and fish oil production units. NGT also imposed an amount of Rupees Twenty Five lakhs upon Fish meal and Fish oil Manufacturers Association for utter negligence and violation of standards in operating the CETP thereby leading to releasing of untreated effluents into the adjacent sea and causing pollution inspite of giving a number of opportunities to rectify the CETP. While concluding the judgment, NGT directed KSPCB to continue to monitor the units and do not allow them to operate unless the CETP is made to function by meeting all the required standards and all the individual units install the deodorisers and evaporators and make them fully functional. [Mohd. Kabir v. Union of India, Application No. 261 of 2014 (SZ), decided on July 8, 2016]

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National Green Tribunal (NGT): Circuit Bench of NGT at Kochi has directed that no diesel vehicle aged more than 10 years shall be allowed to ply in major cities of Kerala like Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur. In addition, the tribunal also temporarily banned registration of new diesel vehicles over 2,000CC and only vehicles for public transport and those to be used by local authorities have been exempted in the order. NGT issued the said interim order while hearing a petition filed by Lawyers’ Environmental Awareness Forum. “We direct that all the diesel vehicles whether light or heavy which are more than 10 years shall not be permitted to ply on the roads in the major cities like Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur,” NGT noted. The Tribunal further added that upon expiry of 30 days from May 23, 2016, i.e. the date of issuance of the said interim order, if any vehicle is found to be violating this direction, it shall pay Rs. 5000 as environmental compensation and this will be collected by traffic police or pollution control board. “The State Pollution Control Board shall maintain a separate account in this behalf. The Fund so collected shall be spent only for betterment of environment in these cities (where the ban would be in force),” the Tribunal directed. In its order, NGT also referred to orders passed by its larger bench in Vardhman Kaushik v. Union of India, 2014 SCC OnLine NGT 2365, by which all vehicles aged over 15 years were banned from the roads in Delhi. While concluding the order, NGT directed the State of Kerala to inform the availability of CNG gas for running of vehicles in the entire State. [Lawyers’ Environmental Awareness Forum v. State of Kerala, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 163, dated: May 23, 2016]

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National Green Tribunal (NGT): While expressing concern over pollution caused due to illegal disposal of effluent and waste, NGT directed Century Pulp and Paper Ltd. to pay Rs 30 lakh as environmental compensation for failing in managing pollution caused due to the effluents discharged in the stream which joins Gola River which flows into Ram Ganga and finally into Ganga. “The effluents exceeding the permissible norms being released in the environment are bound to cause environmental imbalance placing the flora and fauna under illegitimate stress and in the long run such effluents are bound to have deleterious effect on the environment. Considering the period of industrial activity and the volume of daily effluent generated we are of the considered opinion that the respondent no. 6- paper industry is liable to pay damages of Rs 30 lakhs,” the Tribunal noted. Said directions of the Tribunal came upon an application filed by an environmental activist and Member Secretary of organisation “People for Animals for Uttrakhand”, seeking directions to immediately stop discharge of harmful toxic effluents without any treatment and disposing wastes in forest and other revenue areas. After going through all the material on record, NGT noted that the paper industry had contributed to the environmental pollution in some measure and the degree of contribution to pollution is immaterial while deciding the liability of polluter. After imposing fine upon the Paper Company, NGT also constituted a team of senior scientists from the department of Environment Science, University of Jammu, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and IIT Roorkee, to carry out survey and study of the area and the Gola River to ascertain environmental degradation caused and also suggest remedial measures for restoration of environment. Century Pulp and Paper Ltd. was also directed to pay a cost of Rs three lakh to the applicant. [Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India, Original Application No. 486 of 2014, decided on May 4, 2016]

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National Green Tribunal (NGT): While observing that a public spirited person is expected to be diligent in pursuing public cause and not be indolent and lackadaisical, particularly when his action is likely to hinder and jeopardize public work of high magnitude and proportion, NGT dismissed an appeal filed by an environmentalist stating that the appeal was barred by limitation. The said appeal was filed before NGT by a former Professor of economics of IIM Begaluru, presently living at Lakshmoli in Uttarakhand. It was alleged in the appeal that Singoli-Bhatwari hydro-electric project on the river Mandakini in the State of Uttarakhand has been started by L&T Uttranchal Hydro Electric Pvt. Ltd. without complying with the Environment and Forest Clearance and various other safeguards. It was further alleged that no permission of the National Board of Wildlife was sought for before the land for the project was transferred to the State Forest Department and the design of the project was also faulty. Before the Tribunal, L&T Uttranchal Hydro Electric Pvt. Ltd. denied all the allegations and submitted that all the required conditions for the Project have been complied. It was further contended by L&T Uttranchal Hydro Electric Pvt. Ltd. that the delay in filing the application was inordinate as the project had commenced on the basis of valid environment and forest clearances given in the 2006, 2007 and 2009. In his defence, the appellant submitted that the matter came to his knowledge only in July, 2014, after which he approached the Tribunal. After perusing the material on record and hearing both the parties, NGT dismissed the appeal and noted, “We unhesitatingly hold that the Application is inordinately delayed and, therefore, barred by limitation. A public spirited person which the Applicant claims to be is expected to be diligent in pursuing public cause and not be indolent and lackadaisical, particularly when his action is likely to hinder and jeopardize public work of the magnitude and proportion as the project in question.” [Bharat Jhunjhunwala v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 161, decided on May 4, 2016]