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 BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench of Adarsh Kumar Goel, CP and K. Ramakrishnan (JM) and Dr Nagin Nanda (EM), stated that,

“Inspite of the report showing serious violation of law, Haryana State Pollution Control Board has shown either negligence, collusion or incompetence.”

In the present case, the issue for consideration is an alleged violation of environmental norms by Piccadilly Agro Distillery Industries Ltd. A Joint Committee was asked for the report for the stated issue.

The report filed by the committee reported violations of environmental norms by the Units which were required to be remedied. In the stated report, particular mention was made with regard to malfunctioning of ETP and storage capacity of the spent wash. Other steps required were for reducing smell nuisance and to undertake further operations.

Tribunal found a notice issued under Sections 21/22 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and 25/26 of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 asking the unit to submit an action plan to control odour and spillage of leachate.

Further, the bench stated that State PCB may now forthwith take steps apart from considering closing the unit till compliance of norms to protect the public health of inhabitants and to uphold rule of law failing which action may have to be initiated against the Chairman and Member Secretary of State PCB for the failure. It is the duty of regulatory authorities to take stringent preventive and punitive action. Deterrent compensation must be recovered for restoring the damage.

“Violation of environmental norms affects right to life and is a criminal offence.”

The matter is further listed for consideration on 19-07-2019.[Gram Seva Samiti v. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2019 SCC OnLine NGT 44, Order dated 29-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: This interlocutory application was filed before the Bench of Atul Sreedharan, J.

Facts of the case were that an order was passed where the petitioner was ordered to be evicted from the residential accommodation provided to the petitioner subject to petitioner’s paying rent of the premises as per rules. With respect to the above order, an interlocutory application was filed in this case in order to recall the said order.

It was submitted before Court that petitioner was residing in the official accommodation but had not complied with that part of the order by virtue of which petitioner was required to pay the rent as per rules. It was also alleged that the petitioner started depositing money only after filing of this application for recall of the order. Further submission was made that petitioner even after the passing of the order was residing in the official accommodation but was not paying the rent as per rules.

High Court was of the view that petitioner had violated the orders of this Court which does not deserve sympathy and thus the protection given to petitioner was recalled and the respondents were given the liberty to evict petitioner from the premises in accordance with law. [V.S. Sikirvar v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 487, Order dated 19-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Madhuresh Prasad, J. allowed a petition challenging order directing withdrawal of pay increments, holding that enquiry into the matter was done without considering relevant materials.

Petitioner, while working as in-charge officer of mid-day meal scheme in Khagaria, was proceeded against under charge memo alleging that he had recommended one Non-Government Organization (NGO) – ‘Maya Labour Seva Sansthan’ – for executing mid-day meal in an urban and semi-urban area of Khagaria ignoring the norms in vogue.

Petitioner’s case before the Enquiry Officer was that alleged charges were unsustainable in view of the fact that prior to his recommendation, the District Superintendent of Education, Khagaria had already issued an order granting responsibility of mid-day meal in favour of the said NGO. Thus, in view of the earlier order of District Superintendent of Education, he could not have been held responsible for granting the work of mid-day meal. However, the disciplinary authority did not consider his plea, and ordered the withdrawal of five increments of petitioner’s pay with cumulative effect. The Appellate Authority affirmed this order. Aggrieved thereby, the instant petition was filed.

The Court noted that the alleged recommendation of the petitioner had not even been produced in the enquiry. The Enquiry Officer had not considered any evidence in support of the charge whatsoever, and had not even looked into the communication allegedly issued by the District Superintendent of Education. Thus, it was opined that the petitioner had been punished without even examining any evidence in support of the charges.

In view of the above, it was held that report of the Enquiry Officer was clearly unsustainable. Further, the impugned order of Disciplinary Authority and Appellate Authority was also held to be unsustainable and thus quashed.[Sanjay Kumar v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 236, Order dated 22-02-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Sri Lanka: In this appeal violation of Right to Equality was contended which was even upheld by the bench of Sisira J. De Abrew, A.C.J. and L.T.B. Dehideniya and P. Padman Surasena, JJ.

In the pertinent case, appellant complained that his fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 12(1) of the Constitution has been violated by Respondent 1. His child was not admitted to Grade I in Vishaka Vidyalaya, Colombo in the year 2014 even after the directions of the Respondent 2 to admit his child in the School.

The Court considered the material facts and directed the 1st respondent to comply with the direction within one month from the date of judgment and asked 2nd respondent to undertake the responsibility of informing further.[B.A. Nulara Nethumi v. S.S.K. Awiruppola, 2019 SCC OnLine SL SC 2, Order dated 24-01-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench headed by the NGT Chairperson AK Goel J., while addressing a matter related to school’s violating the air and noise pollution norms directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to issue guidelines in regard to the stated issue.

The Bench stated that “Secretary MoEF should have an interaction by way of video-conferencing or otherwise with the education departments of all the states in association with the pollution control boards or the Central Pollution Control Board to issue appropriate guidelines to take care of the violation of environment norms by different educational institutions in the country”.

Hence, NGT directed MoEF to file a compliance report by email at filing.ngt@gmail.com within a period of 8 weeks.

[Source: PTI]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In an highly structured and ornate decision concerning the deficiencies of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 placed in the form of a PIL, the Division Bench comprising of A.S. Oka and Riyaz.I.Chagla, JJ., have remarkably given the explanation on the objects of enacting the Trees Act, which clearly is a leading path towards the growth of trees rather than the destruction in urban areas.

The focal point of addressing the present PIL was the challenge placed by the petitioners on the validity of the amendment to the Trees Act. The talked about PIL in this case constitutes two petitions and the authorities involved in them are “Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai” and “Municipal Corporation of City of Thane”. The challenge in both the petitions is to the sub-section (6) added in Section 8 of the Trees Act and there is a challenge to the constitutional validity of the said provision on the ground of violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The first and foremost submission posed by the petitioners was that in regard to the constitution of the Tree Authority and the kind of mindless decision making process they have adopted towards granting the felling of trees. Her contention is that the entire process is vitiated by illegality due to which they cannot be allowed to function. The next submission was made in regard to the primary challenge of the PIL which concerns sub-section (6) of Section 8, in which she states that, the said provision is arbitrary in nature and has no nexus with the purpose or object sought to be achieved and it certainly violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Along with the mentioned contentions, the other concern was that of the violation of a Fundamental Right of citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India due to the manner of exercise of power by the Municipal Commissioner under the above mentioned sub-section.

Further, even in the other writ, petitioner posed a similar issue by challenging his submission to sub-section (6) of Section 8 by stating that intelligible differentia is not present for the classification under the said sub-section which clearly carves the vagueness and ambiguity due to complete absence of guidelines.

Noting all the contentions posed by the petitioners and prioritising the issue by issuing various directions towards the alarming issue of decisions being taken for felling of trees by the authorities acting in an arbitrary manner, the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay has taken care of the issues by limiting the powers of the Municipal Commissioner by making the authorities a little more diligent towards the issue of felling of trees and therefore, allowing the citizens to appeal against such decisions. [Rohit Manohar Joshi v. Tree Authority, Thane; PIL No. 119 of 2017, dated 23.04.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A writ petition claiming violation of principles of natural justice since excise duty was levied on the petitioner retrospectively without a show-cause notice, was dismissed as sans merit by a Division Bench comprising of Ajit Singh, CJ. And Manoj Bhuyan, J.

The petitioner was a beneficiary under a certain industrial policy wherein the industries were exempted to pay excise duty for a certain period of time. However, subsequently the government amended the said policy and levied excise duty on such industries with retrospective effect. The validity of such amendment was upheld by the Supreme Court in R.C. Tobacco (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, (2005) 7 SCC 725. The petitioner, however, challenged the recovery order under which it was liable to pay the excise duty so levied, on the ground that no recovery proceedings could have been initiated without a show cause notice under Section 11A of the Excise Act.

The High Court settled the controversy by relying on the Supreme Court decision arising out of same controversy, in Dharampal Satyapal Ltd. v. CCE, (2015) 8 SCC 519. The Supreme Court in this case held that although non issuance of show-cause notice prior to passing of recovery order was in violation of principles of natural justice, however in the fact situation of the case, since the quantification of amount was not under dispute, the issuance of notice to the petitioner would have been an empty formality and the case was squarely covered by “useless formality theory”. Further, the legal consequence of amendment to the industrial policy was that the amount with which the appellant was benefited under the said policy became refundable. Even if the notice was issued, the appellant could not take any plea to retain the said amount on any ground whatsoever. In such a situation, issuance of notice would be a futile exercise and the case was covered under useless formality theory.

In light of the above, the Court held that the instant controversy stood covered by the above-mentioned decision of the Supreme Court. Thus, the petition was dismissed holding it to be sans merit. [M/s Dharampal Satyapal Ltd. v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine Gau 62, order dated 06.03.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi: The Court recently held that on the death of an employee and removal of his/ her name from the roll of the company, it is the bounden duty of the employer (Central Coalfields Limited in this case) to inform the dependents of such an employee of their rights under the National Coal Wages Agreement or any such similar agreement that the employer undertook with the employee.
The Court addressed a petition wherein the petitioner argued that she came under the scheme which entitled her with the rights available to the female dependent of a former employee and hence, needed to be given monetary compensation accordingly.
The writ petition had been filed in regards to a claim for monetary compensation under clause 9.5.0 of the National Coal Wages Agreement. Under the said provision, a female dependent of an employee is entitled for monetary compensation, if she is not found eligible for appointment on compassionate ground, till she attains the age of 60 years. The petitioner had asserted that she had attained the age of 51 years. There was no statutory rule framed by the respondent providing limitation for submission of application for monetary compensation. The Court thus held that the claim of the petitioner had been illegally declined and that the respondents had committed gross negligence on not carrying out the obligations under the Agreement. [Sukri Devi v. Central Coalfields Limited,  2017 SCC OnLine Jhar 2263, order dated  22.11.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Stating that Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft (I) Pvt. Ltd., in the name of intermediaries, cannot put anything that violates the laws of this country, the bench of Dipak Misra and R. Banumathi, JJ directed that a memorandum shall be filed before this Court indicating the steps to be taken so that nothing goes through the search engines that violates any legislation.

Ranjit Kumar, learned Solicitor General of India had submitted that the Union of India would convene a meeting with the technical experts of the respondents along with the experts of the Department within ten days. The Court hence, directed the respondents to attend the meeting on the date and time fixed by the competent authority of the Union of India and listed the matter on 25.07.2016. [Sabu Mathew George v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 681, decided on 05.07.2016]