Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Sudhanshu Dhulia, J. contemplated a writ petition where the residents of village Danpur in Rudrapur moved a petition before the National Green Tribunal and informed that the rice mills which were operated in the said village were polluting the environment. The petitioner was the Mill owner who had now filed the instant petition against the order for imposition of penalty.

NGT passed an order, thereby directing the State Pollution Control Board to inspect and file its report. Subsequently, the State Pollution Control Board inspected the rice mills and found certain anomalies in the rice mill since the air filters were not working in the rice mill and the petitioner was asked to rectify his air pollution control system and the report was subsequently submitted to the NGT. In reply to which NGT asked the Board as to why a penalty was not imposed on the Mill for the pollution already caused. Hence, a penalty of Rs 3,37,500 was imposed on the abovementioned Mill.

Counsel for the petitioner, Subhash Upadhayaya argued that penalty was purely in an arbitrary manner. There had been no inspection of the rice mill after 08-05-2019 and even earlier to that, and permission had already been given to the rice mill of the petitioner for 90 days.

On the contrary counsel for the State, Aditya Pratap Singh had apprised that the fixation of the penalty/compensation was not done arbitrarily, but it was based on the guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board.

The Court observed that though the matter was pending before NGT related to the quantum of the penalty the petition had no merits. It further noted that the respondent had also admitted that the compensation/penalty was not justified and the same will be refunded to the petitioner.[Bansal Industries v. Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 627, decided on 18-07-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson and Justice S.P. Wangdi, Justice K. Ramakrishnan; Judicial Members and Dr Nagin Nanda, Executive Member addressed an issue in regard to non-compliance of the Supreme Court Judgment in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (2004) 6 SCC 588, pertaining to:

“directing shifting/closing of industrial activities falling under category ‘F’ of the Master Plan of Delhi, 2001.”

Several petitions were filed in the High Court of Delhi which portrayed the issue of inaction of the authorities and alleging that unauthorized industrial activities which included handling of plastic and its illegal disposal by way of burning, etc. were continuing till date.

NGT had dealt with the matter by way of final order dated 12-12-2013 noting that environmental degradation and havoc was being caused by unscientific handling of plastic on the environment.

Further, it was noted that in spite of lapse of more than 14 years after the Supreme Court’s order and more than 4 and half years after the order of NGT Bench, when the matter was reviewed on 20-07-2018, Tribunal found that unregulated handling of plastic continued unabated.

NGT directed Chief Secretary, Delhi to co-ordinate with authorities concerned and ensure compliance of directions of Tribunal at ground level. Further, he was also directed to indicate persons accountable for their failure against whom appropriate penal action could be taken.

The matter was reviewed on 03-12-2018 and yet again it was noted the continued violation of Supreme Court’s order by unregulated handling of plastic and burning thereof. Tribunal directed the Delhi Government to deposit a sum of Rs 25 Crores towards the cost of damage to the environment and furnish performance guarantee in the like amount with the CPCB, if failure continued, Delhi Government will be liable to pay Rs 10 Crore per month as a coercive measure for compliance of the NGT’s Order.

CPCB’s report indicated that the Delhi Government has not deposited the amount.

Tribunal noted repeated inaction against polluters especially in the context of Delhi that has taken place. Therefore, the Bench stated that the last opportunity is being given to the Delhi Government to deposit amount and furnish the performance guarantee as earlier directed and comply with the Supreme Court’s order and tribunal’s previous and present order.

The hearing for the consideration of the case is listed to be on 05-08-2019. [Satish Kumar v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine NGT 135, decided on 18-07-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): A Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and S.P. Wangdi (Judicial Member), K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member), JJ., and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member), directed that a sum of Rs 17.31 crores assessed by the Committee comprising Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) and Deputy Commissioner, Panipat, be deposited by Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL) Panipat Refinery within one month with the CPCB by way of interim compensation for restoration of the environment subject to further orders. Further action may be taken by the HSPCB in accordance with the law.

In the present case, a complaint was filed stating that air and water pollution caused by Panipat Refinery was causing large scale diseases affecting the inhabitants of the area. A joint team consisting of CPCB, HSPCB and deputy commissioner, Panipat was formed to assess the pollution caused. The report acknowledged enormous pollution. The samples from the Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) were found to be non-compliant. Ambient air quality was exceeding the norms. Untreated effluent was found to be discharged in the green belt areas. Unit was not complying with the conditions of recycling and reusing treated water. ETP was not being operated efficiently and was not adequate. Untreated effluents were being stored in open storage lagoon without VOC recovery system.

Mr Aman Lekhi, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the IOCL responded to the report by the committee through a note which stated that the permission to discharge into Thirana drain was granted by the department of irrigation, Haryana Government. The respondent could not be made responsible for ambient air quality as the report by the joint committee itself was unable to attribute the same to IOCL and only said that the unit might be contributing to increase in values.

The Tribunal noted that IOCL could not justify the discharge of polluting effluents. Permission by the Pollution Control Board could be only to discharge effluents as per laid down norms. No dilution was available in the drain and norms were being violated. There was adequate material to hold that there is a violation of environmental norms.

The Tribunal disregarded the submission that no compensation may be required to be paid as the pollution was also contributed by others. The respondents could not avoid responsibility for the same. It was directed that a sum of Rs 17.31 crores assessed by the Committee may be deposited by the unit with the CPCB by way of interim compensation for restoration of the environment subject to further orders.[Satpal Singh v. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. Panipat Refinery, 2019 SCC OnLine NGT 63, decided on 10-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Manoj Kumar Tiwari, J. and Rajiv Sharma, ACJ., gave directions as to the use and sale of plastic in the State.

The Court took judicial notice of the news item published in daily edition of ‘Hindustan’ newspaper wherein it was stated as to how polythene was damaging the ecology of the environment and consequently it expressed its concern over the havoc created by plastic and demanded the authorities to contribute towards sweeping away the damages caused by the plastic from the State. It was observed that “Polythene is polluting the fragile environment and ecology of the State of Uttarakhand. It has also now entered into the river system and drainage system. It has reduced the fertility of the land. The stray cattle are also consuming polythene, causing grave harm to their health.”

Accordingly, the respondent was directed to apprise the Court about the implementation of the directions issued by it along with the initiative undertaken by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand to eradicate the polythene menace. Also, the District Magistrates throughout the State were directed to launch special initiative to check the sale and use of polythene. [Ban on the use of polythene in Uttarakhand, In re, WP(PIL) No. 132 of 2018, order dated 07-09-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ directed the National Highways Authority Of India (NHAI) to ensure that the newly constructed Eastern Expressway, which is aimed at decongesting Delhi, is thrown open to public from June 1 even if the Prime Minister cannot inaugurate it by then/ The Bench said that “any delay will not be in interest of people.”

NHAI had told the Court that the expressway was scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 29 but it could not be done due to his prior commitments. The Bench took exception to the 135-km Expressway, which envisages signal-free connectivity between Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Gautam Budh Nagar (Greater Noida) and Palwal, not being thrown open to the public despite being informed earlier that it would be inaugurated by April 20.

The Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways were planned in 2006 following Supreme Court’s order to build a ring road outside the national capital for channelling non-Delhi bound traffic. The Supreme Court had asked the Centre in 2005 to build a peripheral expressway around Delhi by July 2016 to decongest and “de-pollute” the national capital.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the issue relating to demolition of the parking lot, being constructed near the eastern gate of Taj Mahal, the Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the Court that he will file the comprehensive policy with regard to the entire issue of pollution in the Taj Trapezium Zone and the nearby areas within two weeks.

The bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta had earlier on 24.10.2017, ordered demolition of the parking lot, being constructed near the eastern gate of Taj Mahal while hearing the petition filed by environmentalist M C Mehta, who has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal from the ill effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area.

On 25.10.2017, Uttar Pradesh State’s counsel Aishwarya Bhati told the bench headed by J. Chelameswar, J that she could not appear before the court on 24.10.2017 when the matter was called up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, due to which the demolition order was passed. The Court hence, agreed to hear the restoration plea.

The matter will now be heard on 15.11.2017. Status quo will be maintained till then. [MC Mehta v Ministry of Environment and Forests,  2017 SCC OnLine SC 1280, order dated 27.10.2017]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Court agreed to hear the Uttar Pradesh government’s restoration plea against its order to demolish a multi-level car parking facility being built within a kilometer of the Taj Mahal. The hearing will take place on October 27, 2017.

State’s counsel Aishwarya Bhati told the bench headed by J. Chelameswar, J that she could not appear before the court yesterday when the matter was called up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, due to which the demolition order was passed.

The Court had, on 24.10.2017, ordered demolition of the parking lot, being constructed near the eastern gate of Taj Mahal while hearing the petition filed by environmentalist M C Mehta, has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal from the ill effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area.

Source: PTI

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Hrayana High Court: The Court recently on a suo motu notice expressed its concern regarding pollution on bursting of crackers during Diwali in Mohali, Chandigarh and others areas of Punajab and Haryana. The Division Bench of Ajay Kumar Mittal, J. and Amit Rawal, J. clearly directed that the bursting of firecrackers within the territorial locations of Union Territory of Chandigarh, States of Punjab and Haryana shall be between 06:30 pm to 09:30 pm on Diwali day i.e. 19th October, 2017 only.

Before arriving at the conclusion, the Bench had considered the judgment cited by amicus curiae Shri Anupam Gupta relating to the firecrackers – Noise Pollution v. Union of India, (2005) 5 SCC 733. The Bench has totally banned any bursting of crackers even before or after 19th October.

The Court had also called for the reports on licences issued for sale of firecrackers in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh on which it was intimated that a total number of 361 applicants have applied for issuance of temporary licences in the city and all the applications have been processed, though few of them might have been issued temporary licences, whereas, only one person has been issued permanent licence. Addl. Advocate General however, also informed that due to paucity of time, the data provided was not certain. Concerned over random distribution of temporary licenses, the Court ordered that Chandigarh, State of Punjab and Haryana will only be entitled to issue temporary licences up to 20% of the total number of temporary licenses issued in 2016 and the grant of issuance of temporary licenses to be on the basis of draw of lots to be arranged by concerned Deputy Commissioners of the area.

The Court also kept in mind the implementation of the directions issued by it and ordered that that PCR Vans shall be deployed by the UT, Chandigarh as well as the States of Punjab and Haryana to ensure the safety and keep an eye on the persons bursting the firecrackers beyond the time limit prescribed under the order. The Court left it open for NGOs to monitor the activities in their area concerned. All the Deputy Commissioners, Police Commissioners/SSPs/SPs of the UT Chandigarh, States of Punjab and Haryana have also been directed to ensure the meticulous compliance of the directions contained in the order. [Court on its own motion v. Chandigarh Administration, CWP No. 23548 of 2017, decided on 13.10.2017]

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 BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

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]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: While hearing a petition with respect to the hardship which the people living in Delhi undergo having regard to the high of pollution in the city, T.S Thakur, CJI. , A.K. Sikri and R. Banumathi, JJ. directed various measures to be undertaken by the Government  and local bodies concerned.

Noted Counsel Harish Salve appearing as amicus argued on various issues including maintenance of high pollution levels inspite of imposition of Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) and diversion of commercial vehicles/trucks to alternates routes, moving of taxis like OLA and UBER to CNG, banning registration of SUVs and private cars of the capacity of 2000 cc, introduction of vacuum cleaners to prevent dust on the roads and proper disposal of solid wastes.

In lieu of consensus between the two parties on the aforementioned issues, the Court issued suitable directions and for other issues which were not heard, the Court has adjourned the matter to 5th January 2016. [M.C. Mehta V. Union of India, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 1327, decided on December 16, 2015]