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Supreme Court: The bench Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta, JJ has allowed construction activity in the Delhi-NCR region between 6 am and 6 pm, partially lifting its complete ban on it.  The said order of the Court came after Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni informed it that the Centre has constituted a high-level committee following the apex court’s direction to examine the feasibility of using technology like smog towers to combat air pollution.

The bench also directed the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana to furnish before it the updated report on stubble burning up to December 11.

The court had on November 25 directed the Centre to constitute a high-level committee within three days to consider and work out modalities regarding other technologies to help combat pollution, and said that a report be filed before it within three weeks on this issue. The various direction that the Court had earlier issued are as follows:

  • It had asked the Delhi government to apprise it of the steps taken with regard to anti-smog gun which sprays atomized water 50 metres in the air to bring down pollutants and had said CPCB should be associated on the issue of anti-smog guns.
  • The court had asked all the states to explain within six weeks as to why they should not be made liable to pay compensation to persons affected by bad air quality saying it is their bounden duty to provide basic civic amenities, clean air and drinking water to citizens.
  • The court had asked the Centre and the Delhi government to sit together and take decision within 10 days with regard to installation of smog towers in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) which would help in combating air pollution.

The Court had said that “the right to life of human is being endangered” by the bad air quality and water pollution and the states have to deal with the situation as “life span is being shortened”. The Court also took exception that states and Centre were indulging in “blame game” over crucial issue of air and water pollution and asked them to work in tandem for welfare of the people. It said despite various orders being passed by the top court from time to time in the pollution matter, the situation has worsened over the years and authorities have to be blamed as they have not performed their duties.

Terming the situation of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh as “alarming”, the Court noticed that despite its order prohibiting it, burning of crop residues in these states have increased. It, hence, pulled up the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for their failure to prevent instance of stubble burning despite the Court’s order. It said,

“Only policy making to deal with pollution is not required, the real issue needed was implementation at the ground level.”

The bench is due to take up the pollution related matters on December 16.

(Source: PTI)

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Union Cabinet Secretary today reviewed the progress made in the arrangements, since Sunday, to control Air Pollution in the National Capital Region.

It was observed that the cases of crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana still continue to continue and that there is a need for more focussed action.

These States have now been directed that more monitoring teams should be deployed on the field to ensure that the violators are taken to task by imposing suitable penalties.

The situation in the capital where different agencies are coordinating was also discussed and it was felt that there was a need for enhanced efforts to control the situation.

The states have also been directed to ensure that they are fully prepared for meeting any exigency in the future.


Prime Minister’s Office

[Press Release dt. 05-11-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Raghuvendra S. Rathore, Justice S.P. Wangdi, Justice K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Members); Dr Satyawan Sigh Garbyal, Dr Nagin Nanda and Saibal Dasgupta (Expert Members), took cognizance of air quality in Delhi.

Tribunal noted the report in some of the newspaper’s:

‘The Hindu’, the matter is reported under the heading ‘Delhi Chokes as air pollution levels hit a three-year high’.

‘Indian Express’, It is reported under the heading ‘Capital air crosses severe level, PMO steps in, Centre to monitor.

‘Times of India’, It is reported under the heading ‘Atmosfear: Delhi Victim of Sick Choke, Capital a Gas Chamber After Light Drizzle.

In the Hindustan Times, the heading is ‘Capital Punishment- Bhopal Gas tragedy occurred once and it has been dealt with, but this gas tragedy is occurringevery year and is not properly dealt with.

Further, Tribunal stated that, to provide efefctive access to judicial remedies for enforcement of right to healthy environment which is part of Right to Life under Article 21.

Supreme Court has issued directions in various matters. This Tribunal has also dealt with the issue in several cases including the matter dealing with 122 ‘non-attainment cities’ in the Country where the air quality is beyond prescribed norms and on the subject preventing ‘crop residue burning.

“Air pollution is source of diseases and threat to life.”

Tribunal adding to the above, stated that the present situation of severe air pollution “is not creation of one day. It is continuous negligence and apathy of statutory authorities in enforcing the law. While remedial action may continue to be taken in the best possible manner, there is urgent need to have proper planning to address the gaps in existing enforcement strategies and existing undesirable situation.”

The Bench further held that after interaction with the Chairman and Member Secretary of CPCB who have presented detailed analysis of the situation, tribunal found it necessary to further examine the matter after looking into the status of implementation of GRAP and other measures including preventive strategies currently adopted. [Air Quality Deterioration In And Around Delhi as reported in Print and Electronic Media, In Re, O.A No. 1008 of 2019, decided on 04-11-2019]

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Supreme Court: Holding the State Governments responsible for the current situation of air pollution prevailing in Delhi-NCR, the Court has said,

“People are dying…more people will die but those at the helm seem interested only in gimmicks. We will supervise this matter now. Crop stubble burning must stop immediately and all states must do everything to stop it,”

The remarks by the apex court came during the hearing of Air pollution case. The matter was being heard by the bench of Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta, JJ. Additional Solicitor-General ANS Nadkarni appeared for the Centre.

Asking the government to call some environment expert from IIT Delhi and from ministry to suggest immediate measures to be taken to deal with pollution crisis, the bench said,

“State governments are responsible. All of them… they are interested only in electioneering. State governments are making a mockery of everything. We are going to hold them responsible now..from top to the bottom. … It is torture, and all officials, to the level of gram pradhans, should be held accountable. We must do something now.”

The Court further further remarked that people are not safe inside their own houses and it was unacceptable in a civilised country and asked what measures were being taken up by the government.

“Even in a bedroom in Lutyen’s Delhi, it (Air Quality Index) is more than 500. Air purifier can’t work. Can we survive in this fashion,”

Describing the situation as ‘grim’, the Court also asked the Centre and Delhi government to inform them what they intend to do reduce the pollution. Speaking on the situation in the national capital, the court stated the situation was being repeated every year and it is not tolerable. It said,

“Things are happening every year under our nose. People are being advised to not come to Delhi or leave Delhi. The state government is responsible. People are dying in their state and neighbouring states. We will not tolerate this. We are making a mockery of everything…”

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Coram comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice S.P. Wangdi (Judicial Member), Justice K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) addressed an application in respect to the air pollution being caused in NCR Region due to the burning of crops in and around Delhi.

The present application constitutes and portrays the fact that, 25-30% of air pollution in NCR is caused by burning crop residue in and around Delhi in October and November every year. Burning of the crop residue is perceived to be helpful in preparing the field for sowing the next crop. This results in an adverse impact on air quality.

In spite of the efforts being taken by the Central and State Governments, burning of the crop is still continuing with all its adverse consequences on public health and environment for which no officer/authority is being held accountable.

Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 provides for prohibiting burning of any material which is likely to cause air pollution burning of any material which is likely to cause air pollution and enforcing such prohibition in an appropriate manner including prosecution and recovery of compensation.

It is to be noted that a pollution-free environment is right of every citizen and obligation of every State.

The stand of the Central Government and States that they are helpless is unacceptable. Just like enforcing the law to prevent other crimes, the State has to own responsibility to enforce law to prevent pollution. Tribunal observed that,

“It is unfortunate that the State have failed to perform its duty and have merely pleaded helplessness on the ground that whatever action was possible have been taken.”

In 5 years the State machinery has not been able to communicate the farmers concerned about the techniques of sowing crops without burning of the crop residue of the paddy, this is an unhappy situation which demands remedial actions. States need to come out with enforcement or other strategies, including further incentives.

Tribunal further stated that the steps taken are inadequate and do not provide for ground checking and vigilance and extinguishing of illegal fires. Preventive remedies of communicating with the farmers the disadvantages of burning are also unsatisfactory and ineffective.

Thus, Tribunal asked the Central and State Governments to take effective steps in communicating with the farmers along with that they may place the data in regard to the fie incidents, responsible officers for the subject for the entire areas and action taken for the failure on their respective web sites.

Action plans and enforcement strategies are reviewed. The matter has been listed on 15-11-2019. [Ganga Lalwani v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine NGT 327, decided on 15-10-2019]

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Green logo and QR coding system also launched to track the manufacture & sale of counterfeit crackers

In a bid to resolve the crisis of air pollution, the Government launched green firecrackers. Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan announced in a Press Conference in New Delhi, that Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) labs have been successful in developing various environment-friendly fireworks such as sound-emitting crackers, flowerpots, pencils, chakkar, and sparklers. He further pointed out that these fireworks, based on new formulations developed by CSIR, have been manufactured and are available in the Indian market for consumers and sellers.

He further informed that due to the ban that had been imposed as per the orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, there was a threat of imminent closure of the entire fireworks industry. However, Science has once again come to the rescue of the common man and millions of jobs have been saved due to the interventions made by our scientists.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “I am very happy that on one hand, we would be using eco-friendly crackers this Deepawali, and, on the other hand, our traditional festival celebrations with lights and firecrackers shall remain intact. Millions of homes which are dependent on the sale and manufacture of fireworks will also rejoice this festival, thanks to our scientists!”


Ministry of Science & Technology

[Press Release dt. 05-10-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench comprising of S.P. Wangdi (JM), K. Ramakrishnan (JM) and Dr Nagin Nanda (EM) imposed Rs 5 Crores as interim environmental compensation on State of West Bengal following the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ due to the adverse air quality.

The present order was followed to be read out due to the alarming adverse air quality of the Kolkata city. Principal reason for bad ambient and air quality was identified to be auto emission apart from road dust, construction activities, burning of municipal waste and industrial wastes including plastics, population of DG sets and industrial emissions. For the stated issue, State had failed to take any effective measures.

NGT was compelled to pass the present order, as specific directions had been issued for phasing out vehicles which were more than 15 years old, further it was also observed by the Tribunal that the judgment passed by the Tribunal for the issue of air pollution was far from being complied. NGT had also directed the State respondents to introduce some mechanism in order to check the emissions of moving overloaded vehicles. All commercial transport vehicles were asked to be converted to CNG.

In spite of more than 7 months having being elapsed, no tangible action was taken by the State and placed before the Tribunal and State Pollution Control Board had remained blissfully silent. Reliance was placed on M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (2004) 12 SCC 118, in which it was stated that “If the regulatory authorities either connive or act negligently by not taking prompt action to prevent, avoid or control damage to environment, natural resources, people’s health and property, the principle of accountability for restoration and compensation have to be applied.”

Thus, State of West Bengal was directed to pay compensation of Rs 5 Crores and on delay, Rs 1 Crore per month by following the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ in terms of Section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. The matter is further listed for 08-01-2019. [Subhas Datta v. State of West Bengal,2018 SCC OnLine NGT 345, Order dated 27-11-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench comprising of A.K Goel, Chairperson; S.P. Wangdi, Judicial Member; and Nagin Nanda, Executive Member, addressed the alarming and menacing situation of air pollution and crop burning being the major contributory factor to it.

In the present application, it was noted that the major issue to be considered by the bench is relating to crop burning primarily in the States of Punjab, Haryana and to some extent in the States of Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi, leading to deterioration of air quality. Further, in the application, it was mentioned that there is a scheme in place called “National Policy for Management of Crop Residue-2014”, for assistance to farmers for burning of the crop through machinery and equipments. Niti Ayog also organised programmes on the same subject for the farmers. After all the mentioned measures and steps, the problem still persists.

In an earlier order of the Tribunal, it was noted that 15,000 pre-mature deaths took place in Delhi in the year 2016 due to smog, to which crop burning was a contributing factor.

On considering the earlier orders of the Tribunal along with the articles that concern with air pollution levels, etc. by newspapers such as Times of India, Indian Express, the NGT noted that the problem as mentioned above remains at standstill and unresolved, to which a suggestion was made to be considered that, “those who help the environment by not burning the crop deserve incentive”. It was also made clear that existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted so as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP on burning crop residue. The said scheme is to be worked out preferably by 14-11-2018.

While concluding its order, the Tribunal also directed the Secretary (Agriculture), Government of India and Chief Secretaries of States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi to find a long-lasting solution to the problem of crop burning after doing a strategic planning. The matter is to be further considered on 15-11-2018. [Ganga Lalwani v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine NGT 339, Order dated 12-11-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken cognizance of a complaint raising the issue of right to health of traffic police personnel, across the country. Allegedly, the high air pollution is causing reduced life expectancy among them as the vehicular pollution affects their respiratory system. It also affects the reproductive system. Most of the State governments are not providing any extra allowances or health facilities to the traffic police personnel.

The Commission has issued a notice to the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretaries of all States and UTs calling for their detailed response in the matter, within eight weeks, positively. In case, the response is not received within the stipulated time, the Commission shall be constrained to invoke coercive process u/S 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

National Human Rights Commission

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. AK Sikri, Abhay Manohar Sapre and Ashok Bhushan, JJ banned the sale of fireworks in the Delhi-NCR area till November 1, 2017 in order to keep a check on the air pollution caused by bursting crackers. The Court said that the order suspending the licences should be given one chance to test itself in order to find out as to whether there would be positive effect of this suspension, particularly during Diwali period.

On the deteriorating air quality in NCR, the Court said:

“The air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby. It leads to closing the schools and the authorities are compelled to take various measures on emergent basis, when faced with ‘health emergency’ situation.”

The Court, however, clarified that it was not tweaking with the various directions contained in the Orders dated 12.09.2017 and hence, that order will be made effective only from November 01, 2017. On 12.09.2017, the ban imposed by the order dated 11.11.2016 was temporarily relaxed and the bench of Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ had given elaborate directions to check the health hazard caused by Diwali Fireworks in Delhi. The Court had also appointed a Committee to be chaired by the Chairperson of the CPCB and consisting of officers at the appropriate level from the National Physical Laboratory, Delhi, the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, Timarpur, Delhi, the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, scientists from the State Pollution Control Boards, the Fire Development and Research Centre, Sivakasi and Nagpur and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) nominated by the Chairperson of the CPCB to submit a report in this regard preferably on or before 31st December, 2017.

The Court directed that the temporary licences that the police may have issued after the order dated 12.09.2017, should be suspended forthwith so that there is no further sale of the crackers in Delhi and NCR.

In the present case, the Court was hearing the plea made by the petitioners who sought for restoration of the order of complete suspension of licences by restoring the Order passed on 11.11.2016. The Court refused to put a blanket ban on sale of crackers as of now and said that further orders in this behalf will be passed only after assessing the situation that would emerge after this Diwali season. [Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1203, decided on 09.10.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Considering the necessity to give precedence to the health of the people in Delhi and in the NCR over any commercial or other interest, the bench of Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ issued elaborate directions and  said that keeping in mind the adverse effects of air pollution, the human right to breathe clean air and the human right to health, the Central  Government and other authorities should consider encouraging display fireworks through community participation rather than individual bursting of fireworks.

The directions issued by the Court are as follows:

  • The concerned police authorities and the District Magistrates will ensure that fireworks are not burst in silence zones that is, an area at least 100 meters away from hospitals, nursing homes, primary and district health-care centres, educational institutions, courts, religious places or any other area that may be declared as a silence zone by the concerned authorities.
  • The Delhi Police is directed to reduce the grant of temporary licences by about 50% of the number of licences granted in 2016. The number of temporary licences should be capped at 500.
  • The Union of India will update and revise and ensure strict compliance with the Notification dated 27th January, 1992 regarding the ban on import of fireworks.
  • The Department of Education of the Government of NCT of Delhi and the corresponding Department in other States in the NCR shall immediately formulate a plan of action, in not more than 15 days, to reach out to children in all the schools through the school staff, volunteers and NGOs to sensitize and educate school children on the health hazards and ill-effects of breathing polluted air, including air that is polluted due to fireworks. School children should be encouraged to reduce, if not eliminate, the bursting of fireworks as a part of any festivities.
  • Fireworks containing aluminium, sulphur, potassium and barium may be sold in Delhi and in the NCR, provided the composition already approved by Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) is maintained. However, the use of compounds of antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacture of fireworks as well as the use of strontium chromate in the manufacture of fireworks is prohibited.
  • 50,00,000 kg of fireworks is far more than enough for Dussehra and Diwali in 2017, hence, transport of fireworks into Delhi and the NCR from outside the region is prohibited and the concerned law enforcement authorities will ensure that there is no further entry of fireworks into Delhi and the NCR till further orders. The permanent licensees are at liberty to take measures to transport the stocks outside Delhi and the NCR.
  • The suspension of permanent licences as directed by the order dated 11th November, 2016 is lifted for the time being. However, the suspension might be reviewed after Diwali depending on the ambient air quality post Diwali.
  • Research study must be jointly carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Fireworks Development Research Centre (FDRC) laying down appropriate standards for ambient air quality in relation to the bursting of fireworks and the release of their constituents in the air. Also, a research study needs to be conducted on the impact of bursting fireworks during Dussehra and Diwali on the health of the people.

The Court appointed a Committee to be chaired by the Chairperson of the CPCB and consisting of officers at the appropriate level from the National Physical Laboratory, Delhi, the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, Timarpur, Delhi, the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, scientists from the State Pollution Control Boards, the Fire Development and Research Centre, Sivakasi and Nagpur and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) nominated by the Chairperson of the CPCB to submit a report in this regard preferably on or before 31st December, 2017. [Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1071, decided on 12.09.2017]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Taking cognizance of far reaching effects of air pollution suo motu, the  Court asked the Governments of States of Punjab, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, NCT of Delhi and the centre to file affidavits before the Court explaining the steps that are being taken within their jurisdictions to minimise air pollution. The affidavits were filed before a Division Bench comprising of S. Ravindra Bhat and S.P. Garg, JJ.

In the aforementioned affidavits, the States gave detailed explanation of the educating and awareness programmes which are in effect along with measures taken to detect and punish persons engaged in stubble burning. The Court, after due regard to all affidavits, gave the direction to the States to file periodic status reports through further affidavits. The affidavits are to be filed not later than by the second Tuesday of every alternative month, the next date being before 14th November, 2017. The affidavits are to be standardized and are to include the following particulars:

· Steps towards education and awareness relating to ills of stubble burning.

· Notifications, if issued, along with amendments/modifications if applicable.

· The number of times Standing Committees met during the interregnum period to monitor the progress of work done and progress, along    with copies of the minutes.

· The number of persons booked for stubble burning.

· Progress achieved in regard to research and development or alternative practices.

The Court further stated that it required the Union Secretaries, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare to explore the possibility of creating a fund for innovation in farming techniques in coordination with such educational or technical institutions as are feasible to innovate new methods which are efficient and environment friendly. The Court directed the three Secretaries to hold a meeting in this regard within three weeks. The Central Government, may also create a fund and a Task Force in this regard, said the Court. The next hearing will take place on 29th August, 2017. [Court on its own Motion (Air Pollution in Delhi) v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 9428, order dated 18.07.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Stating that the sale and registration and therefore the commercial interests of manufacturers and dealers of such vehicles that do not meet the Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) emission standards as on 1st April, 2017 does not take primacy over the health hazard due to increased air pollution of millions of our country men and women, the Court directed that  on and from 1st April, 2017 such vehicles that are not BS-IV compliant shall not be sold or registered in India by any manufacturer or dealer, that is to say that such vehicles whether two wheeler, three wheeler, four wheeler or commercial vehicles will not be sold in India by any manufacturer or dealer on and from 1st April, 2017.

With regard to the sale and registration of the existing stock of such vehicles that comply with BS-III emission standards, the manufacturers contended that they are entitled to manufacture such vehicles till 31st March, 2017 and in so doing, they have not violated any prohibition or any law. Hence, the sale and registration of such vehicles on and from 1st April, 2017 ought not to be prohibited and that they may be given reasonable time to dispose of the existing stock of such vehicles. On the other hand, the learned Amicus contended that permitting such vehicles to be sold or registered on or after 1st April, 2017 would constitute a health hazard to millions of our country men and women by adding to the air pollution levels in the country, which are already quite alarming.

Accepting the contention of the Amicus, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ said that the number of such vehicles may be small compared to the overall number of vehicles in the country but the health of the people is far, far more important than the commercial interests of the manufacturers or the loss that they are likely to suffer in respect of the so-called small number of such vehicles. The Court also said that the manufacturers of such vehicles were fully aware that eventually from 1st April, 2017 they would be required to manufacture only BS-IV compliant vehicles but for reasons that are not clear, they chose to sit back and declined to take sufficient pro-active steps. [M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 291, order dated 29.03.2017]

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal: While raising concern over the increase in air pollution in the NCT of Delhi which are injurious to human health, particularly to lungs and ENT diseases, NGT has suggested the Committee headed by Secretary, MoEF to come out with an Action Plan at the earliest. Meanwhile, the Tribunal issued certain directions for the purpose of providing clean air to the people such as,

  •  Banned all the vehicles which are more than 15 year old to ply on the roads or park in any public places.
  •  Banned burning of Plastic and any other material including tree leaves in an open area.
  • Directed the Respondents to build cycle tracks in Delhi and efforts should be made to encourage cycling in Delhi.
  •  NCT, Delhi and DPCC directed to create a web portal where any person aggrieved can take photographs and upload the same and bring it to the notice of the authorities.
  •  Directed Commissioner of Police of Delhi, NCT of Delhi, Municipal Authorities and DPCCs to ensure that tarred roads for regular traffic not to be used for parking which causes avoidable congestion of traffic.
  • All agencies should ensure that there should be only one side of parking and sufficient space is left for atleast both way carriage and there should be  free flow of traffic and should not be obstructed by excessive and unregulated parking on the road.
  • Ministries, NCT of Delhi and DPCC directed to examine the possibility of installation of air purifiers in all the markets and crowded places or where the traffic load is heavier.
  • Automatic or censor based weigh bridges shall be installed immediately on all the entries and exit point of Delhi

Vardhaman Kaushik vs. Union of India,  decided on 26.11.2014