Bombay High Court: While perusing the newly framed Policy for Environmentally Safe Making and Immersion of Idols/Tazia and its Enforcement (‘the Policy'), as drafted by Maharashtra Government’s Environment and Climate Change Ministry, the Division Bench of A.S. Chandurkar and Urmila Joshi-Phalke, JJ., observed that the presented Policy which will be operational for this year (2022), must be given adequate publicity so as to create awareness in the public. The Bench also expressed its hope that the local authorities will also take necessary steps to dutifully follow the Policy, so that it achieves its intended targets for this year.
Background: The High Court in Court on its own Motion v. Union of India, [SMPIL No. 3/2021] dated 13-07-2022, had directed the State Government to frame a suitable policy regulating the use of plaster of paris (PoP) in making of idols and other articles which are ultimately released into water bodies during Visarjan (immersion) ceremony. It was also directed that the Policy should contain requisite regulations, prohibitions, machinery for implementation, mechanism for dealing with the policy, its non-compliances and consequences.
Pursuant to the afore-stated Directions, the Environment and Climate Change Ministry constituted a Technical Committee (which included the representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board) on 10-08-2022 and was directed to frame a policy. Subsequently, the Policy titled Policy for Environmentally Safe Making and Immersion of Idols/Tazia and its Enforcement, was therefore placed before the Court in the instant matter.
Submissions by the State Government: The counsels of the State submitted that-
The Policy presented deals with the manner in which the idols are to be immersed, preferably in artificial water bodies rather than rivers, lakes and ponds has been enumerated.
The role and responsibilities of the local and urban authorities have been stipulated as well.
The said Policy will be operational until a comprehensive policy is framed for the same.
It was further submitted that all the stakeholders will be consulted while framing a comprehensive policy which would operate from 2023. Suggestions would also be invited from people concerned about climate change and the environment and those suggestions will be duly considered by the Technical Committee.
It was submitted that the Government would be open to the suggestions of the Amicus Curiae and other interested parties, which could be incorporated in the policy that is to be framed.
The afore-stated submissions were accepted by the Court with the expectations that sufficient steps will be taken by the State Government and Local Authorities in promoting the Policy and achieving its goals. The matter would be further considered on 21-09-2022.
[Court on its own Motion v. Union of India, Suo Motu PIL No. 3/2021, decided on 29-08-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
S.P. Bhandarkar, Amicus Curiae.
N.S. Deshpande, Assistant Solicitor General of India , Advocate, for the Respondent Nos.1 and 2;
S.V. Manohar, Senior Advocate with K.S. Joshi, In-charge Government Pleader, Advocate, for the respondent No.3;
C.S. Kaptan, Senior Advocate with S.S. Sanyal, Advocate, for the Respondent No.4;
Harshit Khandar, Advocate, for the Intervenor.
*Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has prepared this brief.