NGT reduces Environmental Compensation for Amazon from Rs. 13.12 lakhs to Rs. 6 lakhs for violation of sewage treatment plant norms

National Green Tribunal

National Green Tribunal: In an appeal under Section 18(1) read with Section 16 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (‘NGT Act’) against an order passed by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), levying Environmental Compensation (EC) of Rs. 13,12,500/- on Amazon Seller Services Private Limited for violation for the period of 70 days, Prakash Shrivastava, Chairperson and Dr. A. Senthil Vel, Expert Member, partly allowed the Amazon’s appeal and the number of days of violation was reduced from 70 days to 32 days. Accordingly, the EC was reduced to Rs. 6 lakhs as per the calculation of the RO, HSPCB.

Amazon Seller Services Private Limited (appellant) manages and operates the e-commerce marketplace, i.e., www.amazon.in which enables third party sellers to display, list and offer their goods for sale to customers in India. Amazon had established a fulfillment centre at Bilaspur, Haryana for storage and delivery to respective customers. The Consent to Establish (CTE) under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Consent to Operate (CTO) was granted to Amazon, which after renewal is valid upto 31-03-2029. Amazon accommodates manpower of approximately 1900 persons including employees, third party workforce, venders and other visitors. Amazon’s case was that domestic waste water is treated in Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) (40 KLD) and the treated waste water is used for gardening and flushing and the STP was installed with a capacity to treat 10 KLD or more but less than 100 KLD.

On 09-12-2022, Regional Officer, HSPCB conducted an inspection of the unit and collected water samples from the STP, which did not meet the requisite criteria, therefore, show cause notice dated 24-12-2022 was issued to Amazon for violating the provisions of the Water Act and CTO conditions and for imposition of EC. In the meeting with the HSPCB officials on 30-01-2023, Amazon was informed to pay performance security of ₹3 lakhs (based on environmental cost) and re-sampling fee of ₹4,500.

In the impugned order, it was ordered that the violation period of the unit was taken 70 days i.e. 09-12-2022 (date of inspection & sampling during which sample of the unit exceeded the limits) to 16-02-2023(date of reply submitted by the unit along with performance security). The location factor was taken as 1 and the unit is of large scale, therefore, the factor for scale of operation was taken as 1.5. In view of above, Amazon unit was directed to deposit environment compensation of Rs. 13,12,500/- with the HSPCB as Environment Compensation within 1 month on account of the damage caused to the environment.

Hence, the present appeal. Amazon’s case was that they had valid CTE and CTO and that though the request for sampling was made by the Amazon on 09-01-2023 and the fee was deposited but the samples were taken by HSPCB much after that. Further, the action was initiated for imposition of EC for a period of 32 days only, therefore, final order in respect of violation for 70 days could not be passed.

The Tribunal noted that the show cause notice dated 24-12-2022, clearly mentioned that during the inspection on 09-12-2022 samples from inlet and outlet of STP were collected in the presence of the Amazon’s authorized representative and in the analysis report the parameters of treated effluent were found to be exceeding the prescribed limit. The Tribunal also noted from the record that no intimation of the maintenance of STP was given to the HSPCB and no authentic material supporting the plea that the Amazon had undertaken the maintenance activity of the STP on the date of the sampling was placed record, therefore, the plea was found to be devoid of any merit.

Regarding the test reports from private laboratories, the Tribunal said that once, the test report on the basis of sample collected on 09-12-2022 were found to be correct then the other test reports from private sourced by the Amazon for prior or subsequent period were of no consequence. Further, the Tribunal said that since it was clearly reflected from the test report of the sample that the prescribed parameters were found to be exceeding, the HSPCB was right in initiating the action for imposition of EC.

Regarding the question that the period for imposing EC was incorrect, the Tribunal noted that the impugned order revealed that the EC of Rs. 13,12,500/- was imposed for violation of the norms for 70 days, i.e., from 09-12-2022 (date of inspection and taking sample which were found to be exceeding the limit) to 16-02-2023 (date of reply submitted by the Amazon unit along with performance security). Further, the Tribunal perused the communication dated 14-12-2024 by the Regional Officer, Nuh, to Senior Environment Engineer-SWM, HSPCB, which reflected that the recommendation for finalization of EC by committee of officers was sent. The recommendation was to levy the EC of Rs. 6 lakhs for the violation of 32 days from 09-12-2022 (date of sampling) to 09-01-2023 (date of reply). On basis of the same, the EAC had opined that the number of days of violation made by the unit has to be taken 32 days. i.e. 09-12-2022 (Date of sampling) to 16-02-2023 (Date of reply). Accordingly, after deliberations, the environmental compensation was calculated and finalized to Rs. 13,12,500.

The Tribunal said that in the order, the Amazon unit was found to be violating for 32 days but in the later part, the date of second reply, i.e., 02-02-2023 was noted instead of the first reply of the appellant, i.e., 09-01-2023 and on that basis the 70 days violation was treated to be 70 days by applying the formula. Hence, the Tribunal held that the EAC’s approach was faulty and, therefore, levy of EC of 70 days on the basis of recommendation of the EAC without taking note of the mistake by the EAC cannot be sustained.

Thus, the Tribunal partly allowed the Amazon’s appeal and the number of days of violation was reduced from 70 days to 32 days and the impugned order dated 22-02-2024 was modified to that extent. Accordingly, the EC was reduced to Rs. 6 lakhs as per the calculation of the RO, HSPCB in terms of the recommendations dated 14-12-2023.

[Amazon Seller Services Private Limited v. Haryana State Pollution Control Board, Appeal No.19/2024, Order Dated: 28-05-2024]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the petitioner: Advocate Ravish Kumar, Advocate Nidhi Raj Bindra

For the respondent: Advocate Rahul Khurana

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