Legislation UpdatesStatutes/Bills/Ordinances

The Inland Vessels Act, 2021 was assented by the President on August 12, 2021. It replaces the Inland Vessels Act, 1917.  The Act regulates inland vessel navigation by states including the registration of vessels, and safe carriage of goods and passengers. The Act seeks to introduce a uniform regulatory framework for inland vessel navigation across the country promoting economical and safe transportation and trade through inland waters.

Key highlights of the Act are:

  • Mechanically propelled inland vessels: The Act defines such vessels any inland vessel in the inland waters which is propelled by mechanical means of propulsion such as ships, boats, sailing vessels, container vessels, and ferries.
  • Inland water area into zones: The State Government shall declare by notification any inland water area to be a “Zone” depending on the maximum significant wave eight criteria.
  • Registration: For operating in inland waters, all such vessels must have a certificate of survey, and a certificate of registration.  Vessels with Indian ownership must be registered with the Registrar of Inland Vessels (appointed by the state government).  The registration certificate will be valid across the country and will indicate the inland water zones (areas of operation to be demarcated by states) for such vessels.
  • Safety in navigation: Inland vessels shall be required to follow certain specifications for signals and equipment to ensure navigation safety, as specified by the central government.  In case of a navigation hazard, the master of a vessel must immediately send a distress signal to other vessels in proximity and to the concerned state government.
  • Accidents: Accidents in any case must be reported to the head officer of the nearest police station, as well as to a state government appointed authority.  The state may require the District Magistrate to question into these matters and submit a report recommending actions to be taken.
  • Contravention of provisions: The central government will prescribe the minimum number of people that vessels must have, for various roles. Contravention of any provisions will attract a penalty of up to Rs 10,000 for the first offence, and Rs 25,000 for subsequent offences. The central government will prescribe the standards for qualification, training, examination and grant of certificate of competency, which indicate the fitness of the recipients to serve in the specified roles.  State governments will grant these certificates.
  • Prevention of pollution: The central government will release a list of chemicals, any ingredients or substance carried as bunker or as cargo, or any substance in any form discharged from any mechanically propelled inland vessel, as pollutants. Vessels will discharge or dispose sewage, as per the standards specified by the central government. The State governments will grant vessels a certificate of prevention of pollution, in a form as prescribed by the central government.
  • Database on inland vessels: An electronic centralised record of data on inland vessels to be maintained by the central government. These will include information with respect to the(i) registration of vessels, (ii) crew and manning, and (iii) certificates issued.
  • Development fund: A Development Fund to be established under the Act for the following purposes: (i) emergency preparedness, (ii) containment of pollution, and (iii) boosting inland water navigation. Each state will constitute such a development fund. Sources of contribution to the fund include: (i) schemes of state governments, (ii) stakeholders, and (iii)collections from sale of wreck or cargo.
  • Non-mechanically propelled inland vessels: The Act delegates the power to State Government to make rules to regulate non-mechanically propelled inland vessels.

 


*Tanvi Singh, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): Full Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) expressed that:

Conduct of functions must not disturb other citizens right to peaceful and clean environment.

The instant Order was pursuant to the subject of compliance of environmental norms by restaurants/hotels/motels/banquets, etc. in terms of earlier orders of Tribunals.

Vide the Order dated 02-11-2018, Tribunal considered grievance against the violation of environmental norms, including solid waste management, discharge of effluents, illegal ground water extraction, ground water contamination, emission by illegally operating diesel generators, absence of statutory consents under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (‘Water Act’), the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (‘Air Act’) and violation of conditions of consents where such consents are granted, by the restaurants/hotels /motels/banquets in Mahipalpur, Rajokri areas in Delhi. The Tribunal also considered the issue of absence of rainwater harvesting, ground water recharge system, excess noise pollution, illegal parking and encroachments.

Tribunal found violations and directed remedial action.

Mechanism/Guidelines for Control of Pollution and Enforcement of Environment Norms at Individual Establishments and the Area/ Cluster of Restaurants/ Hotels/ Motels/ Banquets etc.:

  1. a)  Individual units to provide necessary facilities for control of air, water & noise pollution, solid waste management, etc as enumerated in the previous sections.
  2. b)  Individual units to take necessary approvals from the concerned authorities as listed below:
  •  Consent to Establish under Air/Water Act
  •  Consent to operate under Air/Water Act
  •  Permission for concerned Authorities in accordance with provisions of Noise Rules
  •  Permission for Ground Water Extraction from concerned Authorities , if required
  •  Building Plan Approval from concerned Authorities
  •  Fire Safety Certificate/NoC from concerned Authorities
  1. c) Local Authorities to ensure provision of adequate common facilities for water pollution, solid waste management, parking etc
  2. d) The State Board to have robust monitoring mechanism to evaluate compliance with norms of such units atleast twice a year. As per NGT Directions, SPCBs/PCCs are required to submit compliance report to CPCB

Bench stated that the recommendations in the report of the CPCB need to be duly implemented by all the States/UTs by adopting the guidelines for control of pollution in marriage halls, banquet halls, party venues etc. along with consent management system, as already directed.

Further, the Tribunal added that ETPs needs to be installed by all the big units, not connected to the sewer lines, apart from ensuring compliance of rainwater harvesting systems, adequate safeguards in operating the kitchen need to be adopted, composting facilities, control of noise levels and providing parking space.

In case the above is not followed, no consent shall be given or renewal even in respect of the establishments already setup.

Bench also expressed that the Consent conditions must require the owner/manager of establishment informing the organizer/user in writing in advance about the conditions applicable for ensuring compliance.

 In view of the above, application was disposed of. [Westend Green farms Society v. Union of India,  2021 SCC OnLine NGT 3, decided on 04-02-2021]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench, New Delhi: The Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member)declined any relief to the applicant seeking an injunction against the demolition of Dhobi Ghat.

The instant application sought an injunction against the demolition of Dhobi Ghat, Okhla Delhi.

Applicant on an earlier occasion had approached the Delhi High Court by way of WP (C) 8963 of 2020, Muslim Kassar Vikas Sangthan (Reg.) v. Delhi Development Authority, the said petition was disposed of on 12-11-2020, wherein the Court had asked the petitioners to approach the NGT. 

Tribunal found the grievance to be out of the ambit of Sections 14 and 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.

Bench added that jurisdiction of NGT under Sections 14 and 15 can be invoked by a victim of pollution for the restoration of environment or for compensation to the victim, and the said issue is not shown in the instant matter.

Hence, in view of the above application was disposed of. [Muslim Kassar Vikas Sangthan (Regd.) v. Delhi Development Authority, 2020 SCC OnLine NGT 867, decided on 11-12-2020]


Also Read:

Section 14 of the NGT Act:

Tribunal to settle disputes.—(1) The Tribunal shall have the jurisdiction over all civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment), is involved and such question arises out of the implementation of the enactments specified in Schedule I.

(2) The Tribunal shall hear the disputes arising from the questions referred to in sub-section (1) and settle such disputes and pass order thereon.

(3) No application for adjudication of dispute under this section shall be entertained by the Tribunal unless it is made within a period of six months from the date on which the cause of action for such dispute first arose:

Provided that the Tribunal may, if it is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the application within the said period, allow it to be filed within a further period not exceeding sixty days.

Section 15 of the NGT Act:

Reliefcompensation and restitution.—(1) The Tribunal may, by an order, provide,—

(arelief and compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage arising under the enactments specified in the Schedule I (including accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance);

(b) for restitution of property damaged;

(c) for restitution of the environment for such area or areas,

as the Tribunal may think fit.

(2) The relief and compensation and restitution of property and environment referred to in clauses (a), (band (c) of sub-section (1) shall be in addition to the relief paid or payable under the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 (6 of 1991).

(3) No application for grant of any compensation or relief or restitution of property or environment under this section shall be entertained by the Tribunal unless it is made within a period of five years from the date on which the cause for such compensation or relief first arose:

Provided that the Tribunal may, if it is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the application within the said period, allow it to be filed within a further period not exceeding sixty days.

(4) The Tribunal may, having regard to the damage to public health, property and environment, divide the compensation or relief payable under separate heads specified in Schedule II so as to provide compensation or relief to the claimants and for restitution of the damaged property or environment, as it may think fit.

(5) Every claimant of the compensation or relief under this Act shall intimate to the Tribunal about the application filed to, or, as the case may be, compensation or relief received from, any other court or authority.

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Rafting per se does not cause any serious pollution of river or environment.

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar (Chairperson) and M.S. Nambiar (Judicial Member), Dr D.K. Agarwal (Expert Member) and Prof. A.R. Yousuf (Expert Member), allows rafting at Rishikesh but bans camping activity.

Reason for filing the present application

Being aggrieved by the haphazard and unregulated licensing of the river rafting camps operating in river Ganga from Shivpuri to Rishikesh on one hand which is a serious source of pollution of pristine river Ganga on one hand and encroachment and degrading of various areas, on the other hand, the instant application was filed.

The applicant organization has been raising various issues with regard to environmental protection across the country.

Rafting and Camping

In northern India, rafting is commonly exercised on the river Ganges near Rishikesh and the Beas River in Himachal Pradesh. Recent times have witnessed that the said area has been denoted as eco-tourism zone namely Kaudiyala-Tapovan eco-tourism zone where various activities besides rafting and camping have been permitted.

Activities of camping and rafting in a very huge number has caused excessive pressure on the river. On the said sites, either there are no toilet facilities, making people defecate in the open or where they exist they are in the nature of pit disposal.

Causes of Pollution 

During monsoon, the discharge remains to flow into the river, thereby causing pollution and interfering in the river eco-system. The tourists and rafters also throw polythene, wrappers and various kinds of bottles on the sites and on the river bed which ultimately flow into the river. Ganga is also polluted because of high use of detergents, soaps and shampoo.

State Government’s approach is violative of the doctrine of public trust as enunciated by the Supreme Court in the decision of M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath, (1997) 1 SCC 388 and Centre for Environment Law v. Union of India, (2013) 8 SCC 234.

  • Trees have been cut in the process of encroaching upon the forest area for the purpose of campsites and beach camps.
  • Noise and Air Pollution: Rafting campsites are located upstream and rafters are taken to the campsite in diesel vehicles, creating noise and air pollution.
  • Alcohol along with the food is served by the owners, the leftover of which flows into the river causing pollution.
  • Wildlife is being affected due to the above-stated camps and the increase in man-animal conflict.

Hence, on the applicant’s behalf, it was submitted that since rafting camps are a ‘non-forest activity’, therefore it cannot be carried on without clearance from the competent authority under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

Mushrooming of rafting camps cannot be termed as a sustainable development activity or a permissible eco-tourism activity.

Analysis and Decision

Following questions fall for determination of the Tribunal:

  1. Whether the application is barred by limitation in terms of proviso to Section 14 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010?
  2. Whether setting up of temporary camps, particularly in the declared forest area amounts to non-forest activity and requires approval of the Central Government as contemplated in terms of Section 2 of the Conservation Act?
  3. Whether in the facts and circumstances of the present case, permitting the establishment of camps for a major part of the year and year after year amounts to temporary assignment by way of lease or otherwise to a private person of any forest land or portion thereof, in terms of sub-section (iii) of Section 2 of the Conservation Act attracts restriction contemplated under Section 2 of the Conservation Act?
  4. Whether it was permissible for the State of Uttarakhand to cover regulation of forests under the Rules of 2014 which were formed under clause (a) and (b) of sub-section 2 of Section 8 of Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board Act, 2001 (for short ‘Act of 2001’) when the field was already covered under the Central legislation, i.e., the Conservation Act?
  5. Whether eco-tourism in the forest area would squarely fall within the ambit and scope of the provisions of the Conservation Act and the letter dated 28th August, 1998 issued by MoEF is liable to be quashed?
  6. Whether camping site is a purely commercial activity and cannot be permitted in the forest land or on the banks of river Ganga, keeping its impact on the environment in mind and should be barred?
  7. If question no. 6 is answered in the negative, what should be the regulatory regime governing carrying on of such rafting and camping activities?
  8. What is the relevancy for determining the conduct of the State Government, private parties and the incidents of violation reported before the Tribunal?
  9. What directions should be issued by the Tribunal?

Discussion

Whether the application is barred by limitation in terms of proviso to Section 14 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010?

Under Section 14 of the NGT Act, the Tribunal has the jurisdiction to entertain and decide all civil cases where substantial question arises to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment) is involved and such question arising out of the implementation of the enactments specified in Schedule-I of the NGT Act.

The ‘cause of action first arose’ would have to be understood in reference to continuing cause of action, where the cause of action is recurring and is distinct or is a new cause of action.

Rafting and camping is an activity which has been carried on for years now. Rules were framed in 2014 by the State of Uttarakhand under which permission and licenses for rafting and camping respectively are to be granted.

According to the affidavit filed on behalf of the State, it is an annual feature and permission/license are granted from September to June every year. Thus, every year it is a fresh cause of action.

NGT’s larger bench has already stated that when an application is based on recurring cause of action then fresh cause of action would not be hit by the language of Section 14 of the NGT Act and each fresh event would give a fresh acsue of action and consequently the period of limitation of 6 months.

Applicant claims and has rightly invoked Precautionary Principle in terms of Section 20 of the NGT Act. The Precautionary Principle can be safely applied to protect and prevent the environment and ecology.

Tribunal stated that the issue in the present application was in regard to proper regulation of rafting and camping activity to prevent damage, degradation and pollution being caused in relation to the forest area, river bank and river Ganga. Hence, such an action would not be hit by limitation.

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Whether setting up of temporary camps, particularly in the declared forest area amounts to non-forest activity and requires or not approval of the Centre as contemplated in terms of Section 2 of the Conservation Act?

Whether in the facts and circumstances of the present case, permitting establishment of camps for a major part of the year and year after year amounts to temporary assignment by way of lease or otherwise to a private person of any forest land or portion thereof, in terms of Section 2(iii)  of Conservation Act attracts restriction contemplated under Section 2 of the Conservation Act?

In the case of Lafarge Umiam Mining (P). Ltd. v. Union of India, (2011) 7 SCC 338 while referring to Section 2 of the Conservation Act the Supreme Court held that this is how the concept of prior approval from the Central Government comes into picture and thus prior determination of what constitute forest land is required to be done.

The State of Uttarakhand had issued permissions to carry on the non-forest activity in the reserved forest area under the provisions of relevant laws. It had also made a reference to MoEF vide its letter dated 31st July, 1998. This letter was responded by MoEF vide letter dated 24th August, 1998.

MoÉF expressed the view that camps on sandy stretch of river banks for rafting does not fall under the provision of Conservation Act and it is basically an eco tourism activity.

MoEF vide its letter dated 7-10-2014 issued guidelines for diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes or execution of temporary work in the forest land. Vide this letter it clarified that the work which does not involve any tree cutting, is a temporary work and the approval as contemplated under Section 2 of the Conservation Act is not required.

Till 1998 the view of MoEF was that camping should not be permitted in the sandy banks of the river and the forest area. However, the letter dated 28th August, 1998 made some variations.

Tribunal stated that,

“…provisions of Section 2 of the Conservation Act, therefore, must have precedence over any other law for the time being in force in the State of Uttarakhand.”

In the present case, we are primarily concerned with the interpretation of Section 2(ii) and (iii) read with explanation to the section.

Bench observed that ‘Camping Activity’ is an activity which has impacts on environment and ecology and bio-diversity of the river. There are allegations and even records to suggest that number of camping areas have been found to be offending the conditions imposed by the State Government. Cases of breach had been registered against them and in a case even fire-arms were found to be in possession of the visitors coming to these camps.

Further, there are permanent, semi-permanent and temporary structures raised and large scale tenting is done in the river bed. This activity from its nature, substance and actualities extending on the site clearly show that it is a non-forest activity for a non-forest purpose. 

Once it is held that the activity of camping on the forest land or any portion thereof is a non-forest activity and for a non-forest purpose, the provisions of Section 2(ii) of the Conservation Act would be applicable and it would be expected of the State Government to issue permission/order in terms thereof only upon taking approval of the Central Government.

Hence the contention that the said activity is not a non-forest activity could not be accepted.

Whether setting up of rafting camps along the beach of river Ganga and its tributaries qualifies as breaking up of the forest as comprehended under Section 2(ii) of the Conservation Act or not?

The term ‘breaking up’ has to be understood with the object of the Conservation Act in mind.

The instant case cannot be compared to the case of S Jayachandran, Joint Secretary, T.N Greens Movement (supra) rather if the activity of camping is carried on for ten months every year it has certain degree of permanency as understood and digging of the area is carried on. Thus, even according to that judgment, it would be breaking up of the forest area.

Furthermore, this is an act being carried on by the private respondents with the permission of the State and is certainly not an act/purpose of reforestation. Thus, we are unable to accept this contention of the respondent.

Hence for the issues mentioned above, tribunal held that the cases of camping activities in the reserved forest areas are activities which are for non-forest purpose or are non-forest activity in the forest area. These cases would attract the provisions of Section 2(ii) and (iii) of the Conservation Act.

It is obligatory upon the State of Uttarakhand to seek approval at least as a matter of scheme from MoEF and then issue orders/permits in terms of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act.

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  • Whether it was permissible for the State of Uttarakhand to cover regulation of forests under the Rules of 2014 which were formed under clause (a) and (b) Section 8(2) of Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board Act, 2001 when the field was already covered under the Central legislation, i.e., the Conservation Act?
  • Whether eco-tourism in the forest area would squarely fall within the ambit and scope of the provisions of the Conservation Act and the letter dated 28-08-1998 issued by MoEF is liable to be quashed?

Ecotourism is about uniting conservation communities and sustainable travel. It is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people.

Examples of negative environmental impacts of tourism to the protected natural areas have been listed as: overcrowding, environmental stress, trail erosion, deterioration of vegetation, noise pollution, contamination of air, water and land, forest fires, wildlife mortality, health hazard, habitat destruction, deforestation, erosion, ecological changes, behavioral changes of animals, groundwater pollution, scarring of landscape, etc.

The provision which empowers the State Government under the Act of 2001 to grant permission for camping activity in the forest area which is a non-forest activity would be ultra vires the provisions of the Conservation Act.

Tribunal in view of the above stated issues held that the MoEF letter dated 28-08-1998 is liable to be quashed the provisions or rules which deal with the implementation and proposal to grant permits for carrying on of camping activity in the forest area are concerned, they are in conflict with the provision of Section 2 of the Conservation Act and hence are ultra virus and cannot be implemented. It is obligatory upon the State of Uttarakhand at best as a matter of policy to seek prior approval of the Central Government before issuance of any permit for said camping activity.

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What is the relevancy for determining the conduct of the State Government, private parties and the incidents of violation reported before the Tribunal?

Rapid Impact Assessment Report was not found worthy of acceptance by the State of Uttarakhand according to the Inter- Departmental Meeting of the State of Uttarakhand. The said meeting was held as a one day affair in which the team had gone in the river through the motor boat which was not permissible and they had no fair opportunity to examine the sites and offer fair comments. The said contention was not accepted by the tribunal.

The above-stated were verifiable facts and whether the State Government wanted to accept the report or not was a matter, exclusively in the domain of the State Government. But to treat it as an irrelevant document was certainly a mistake, the State Government ought to have considered the report objectively and taken its decision while granting permissions so as to ensure that there was no degradation of environment, biodiversity, ecosystem and particularly the forest area.

Hence, it was observed that the conduct of the State and the private parties are of relevancy in determining the main issue. The Rapid Assessment Report would provide an insight into the working of these camp sites. Undisputedly, there are violations committed by the management as well as the guests at the camp sites.

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  • Whether camping site is a pure commercial activity and cannot be permitted in the forest land or on the banks of river Ganga, keeping its impact on environment in mind and should be barred?
  • If question no. 6 is answered in the negative, what should be the regulatory regime governing carrying on of such rafting and camping activities?

It is clear that this eco-tourism activity is completely a commercial activity intended to provide financial benefit to the State and provide employment to the people of the area.

It is true that rafting does not have any adverse impacts on the environment, ecology and river per se but carrying on of camping activity in the forest area does have substantial impacts.

Bench observed that despite the fact that eco-tourism is a commercial activity still it could be permitted, but subject to a strict regulatory regime and its enforcement without default.

Responsibility lies upon the State to protect its environment, forest and rivers.

Camping activity does cause contamination of river and ground water particularly when the activity is not carried on strictly in terms of the regulatory regime in force.

Further it was stated that the camping activity cannot be permitted as a primary activity as it has been there for continued period of 5 years. It is a matter of common knowledge that a person who wish to make investment for a period of 5 years would be having some reluctance not to raise structure of atleast some permanence to give greater comfort, convenience and service to its visitors, though at the cost of adverse impacts upon environment, ecology, river and wildlife.

Thus, it is absolutely essential that a proper stringent Regulatory Regime is placed on record so that such activity can be permitted to continue longer.

Tribunal also noted that the Ganga river from Gaumukh to Rishikesh which few years back was a river of pristine and without any pollution today, because of various factors, of which camping is one, has altered water quality, therefore it is absolutely necessary that a High Powered Committee is constituted.

There has to be very serious supervision with physical inspections at regular intervals by team of high officers of the Forest Department of Uttarakhand and Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board.

there would be no camping or camping site in the mid of the river or river bed and anywhere within the area which is less than 100 meters measured from the middle of the river upto 2 km beyond boundary of the Rishikesh upstream and not less than 200 meters measured from middle of the river there onwards till boundary of Haridwar downstream.

The concept of ‘Back to Nature’ ought not to be used for developing revenue at the cost of Environment and Ecology.


Directions:

Tribunal passed the following directions in view of the above discussion:

  • No camping activity shall be carried out in the entire belt of Kaudiyala to Rishikesh and the Government would abide by its statement made before the Tribunal on 31st March, 2015. Rafting activity is permitted to be carried with immediate effect.
  • A committee of officers is constituted not below te rand of a Joint Secretary from the Ministry of Environment and Forests and along with a specialist in this from the Ministry.
  • The Rapid Impact Assessment Report shall be treated as a relevant document and the Committee would conduct or get conducted a further survey to satisfy itself.
  • Committee shall consider all aspects of Environment, Wildlife, River and Biodiversity while preparing the relevant regulatory regime.
  • Committee shall give recommendation for all preventive and curative measures and steps that should be taken for ensuring least disturbance to wildlife and least impact on the environment and ecology.
  • After preparation of this report which should be prepared within 3 weeks from the pronouncement of this Judgement, the State of Uttarakhand through Secretary, Forests would submit a Comprehensive Management Plan cum proposal for approval to MoEF. MoEF would consider the same in accordance with law and accord its approval in terms of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act.
  • Committee shall ensure that it not only identifies the sites which can be appropriately used for camping activity but also the manner and methodology in which such sites should be put to use for carrying on of these activities.
  • After grant of approval, the State of Uttarakhand shall issue an order under Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act and give permits in terms of its policy.
  • In terms of revenue and technical aspects, the State is free to take its decisions.
  • Tribunal further directs that if the Committee is of the opinion that rafting stations and number of rafting shafts to be permitted should be more than camp sites, it may so recommend but then, those rafting stations shall be used for very limited purposes of picking up and dropping the visitors without any other infrastructure.
  • local persons should be provided with maximum chances of employment or other financial gains resulting from this Eco-Tourism.
  • Complete prohibition on use of any plastic in the entire belt covered under the present judgement.
  • It shall be obligatory upon every person to whom permit/license for camping is granted by the State to collect the Municipal Solid Waste or all other wastes from the camping site at its own cost and ensure their transport to the identified sites for dumping.
  • No structure of any kind would be permitted to be raised, temporary, semi-permanent or permanent. We make it clear that making of the cemented platforms or bricked walls would not be permitted within the limits aforestated.
  • Committee also has to make this Report in relation to source, quantum of Water and source of Power needed keeping in view the camping activity.

[Social Action for Forest and Environment (Safe) v. Union of India,  2015 SCC OnLine NGT 843, decided on 10-12-2015]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): Full Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member), Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Members) addressed a matter wherein violation of Air and Water Act has been stated and ground for polluted environment is the lack of funds with the local body.

In the present application, the grievance was with regard to the violation of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 in a village in Himachal Pradesh on account of failure to handle waste which is being burnt causing air pollution, resulting in diseases, loss of livestock and contributing to forest fires and loss of wildlife.

Increase in monkeys, feral dogs and scavengers namely crows, vultures, etc. have also been noticed. Further, the Dumpsite in hilly terrain has been overflowing and contaminating water body, which is a source of irrigation.

The above-stated deficiencies have been pointed by relying upon the photographs and letters addressed to the authorities.

Deputy Commission and the Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, both had sought a report vide its order dated 14-01-2020.

In the report filed n 13-11-2020 following was stated:

As per the said report, the Joint Inspection Committee had directed the Municipal Council, Hamirpur:- (i) to join the corners of RCC retaining wall with the hill ~ide to avoid spillage of Solid Waste (ii) to provide proper fencing to avoid entry of stray animals inside the facility (iii) construct storm drain of adequate size to avoid entry of storm water/rain water and (iv) to ensure that no fire incident/forest fire take place in the solid waste processing facility. Being a nodal agency, State Board also issued directions vide office letter dated 14/02/2020 to Municipal Council, Hamirpur to comply with the recommendations of the Joint Inspection committee.

It is further submitted that the Joint Inspection Committee was once again requested by the State Board on 17.10.2020 to re-inspect the site to verify whether the recommendations of the said committee have been complied with by M.C. Hamirpur at its Solid Waste Processing Facility. Recently, joint inspection of the site was once again conducted on 10.11.2020, under the Chairmanship of Addl. District Magistrate, Hamirpur alongwith Sub Divisional Magistrate Hamirpur, Environmental Engineer, (HPSPCB, Una), Executive Officer, (Municipal Council Hamirpur), Asstt. Engineer, (Jal Shakti Vibhag, Hamirpur) and Asstt. Environmental Engineer, (HPSPCB, Una).

Bench noted that the deficiencies still persist and the reason for the failure to take action on the ground has been lack of funds with the local body.

Tribunal held that the ground of “lack of funds” is not a valid ground as clean environment is a fundamental right for which funds are to arranged by the authorities either by collection from the citizens concerned or otherwise.

In view of the above, Bench directed the Secretary, Urban Development Department, Himachal Pradesh to ensure further remedial action.

Matter has been further listed for consideration on 24-03-2021. [Rita Sharma v. State of H.P., Original Application No. 05 of 2020, decided on 13-11-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

Applicants: Tushar Giri, Advocate

Respondents: Sanjay Kumar, Advocate for HPSPCB

Case BriefsCOVID 19Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member), Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Members), while addressing the issue and considering the ban on the use of firecrackers observed that:

Celebration by crackers is for happiness. It is not to celebrate deaths and diseases. Happiness of few at the cost of life of others is not the value in Indian society which stands for happiness and well-being of all.

Issue

Remedial Action against pollution by use of firecrackers aggravating the menace of COVID-19 pandemic, posing a higher danger to the lives and health of the vulnerable groups.

Current Restrictions of Firecrackers

Bench noted that considering the potentially harmful consequences of burning crackers amidst COVID-19 pandemic situation and approaching winter, the State of Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, NCT of Delhi (DPCC) and UT Chandigarh prohibited sale and use of firecrackers to protect the vulnerable groups like elderly, children, persons with co-morbidities and others.

Tribunal also placed reliance on the Technical Expert Committee that prohibition on firecrackers is a necessity to avoid the harmful health impact on account of the bursting of crackers, aggravating COVID during increased pollution.

Calcutta High Court’s decision in Anasua Bhattacharya v. State of W.B., WPA No. 1984 of 2020, was also noted wherein the Court has banned firecrackers.

State of Tamil Nadu

State of Tamil Nadu submitted that banning of crackers will affect the livelihood of the manufacturers and workers and the same was justified.

State of Punjab

Punjab claimed that air quality in its non-attainment cities was satisfactory and moderate during certain months.

Assam Pollution Control Board also stood by the stand of State of Punjab.

Amicus

Amicus, Raj Panjwani submitted that air pollution increases the risk of mortality from COVID-19.

He referred to various articles and further added that Lung injuries, including the life-threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome and respiratory failure, as well as an acute coronary syndrome, arrhythmia, myocarditis, and heart failure, were shown to be clinically dominant, leading to critical complications of COVID-19.

Recent studies in China, the USA, as well as Europe, indicate that patients with cardiovascular risk factors or established cardiovascular disease and other comorbid conditions are predisposed to myocardial injury during the course of COVID-19. From the available information, it thus follows that air pollution-induced inflammation leads to greater vulnerability and less resiliency, and the pre-conditions increase the host vulnerability.

Nexus between Pollution and COVID-19

Amicus added that with Covid-19, even reduced pollution becomes hazardous. What may be permitted in normal time can also not be permitted during Covid-19. That is the reason for the ban by the States which was never considered without Covid. The States have gone by expert advice in doing so. There is enough material indicting nexus between the pollution and the Covid and that the increased pollution will increase Covid impact.

Tribunal: Decision and Analysis

Bench stated that the Supreme Court’s decision in regard to ‘Firecrackers’ does not involve the impact of COVID-19, due to which it makes necessary for the tribunal to proceed further.

Financial loss or loss of employment cannot be a consideration not to remedy the situation affecting lives and health of the citizens by pollution, aggravated by Covid.

Further, the bench emphasised that

“while it is true that any restriction on the sale and use of crackers may affect the business and employment, at the same time if the use of crakers results in pollution and affects life and health of the citizens and the environment, such use may have to be restricted/prohibited to effectuate ‘Sustainable Development’ principle of which ‘Precautionary’ principle is a part, as per the mandate of Section 20 read with Section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.”

In view of the above stated, Tribunal stated that if authorities do no exercise its jurisdiction, the Tribunal has to exercise its jurisdiction.

Right of trade is not absolute and is to be subject to the ‘Sustainable Development’ principle, which is part of Right to life.

Relevant SC directions and Observations

In Arjun Gopal v. Union of India(2017) 1 SCC 412it was noted that air quality standards in Delhi are from ‘poor’ to ‘severe’ during winter resulting in the potential of diseases. Directions that were issued in the said decision were:

  1. Suspend all such licenses as permit sale of fireworks, wholesale and retail, within the territory of NCR.
  2. The suspension shall remain in force till further orders of this Court.
  3. No such licenses shall be granted or renewed till further orders.

The above directions were modified in the following Orders:

Arjun Gopal v. Union of India(2017) 16 SCC 280, It was noted that, the health of the people has to take precedence over any commercial or other interests, graded regulation of firecrackers was necessary which would eventually result in prohibition. Accordingly, directions were issued to restrict the temporary licenses to 50%, pending further consideration.

Supreme Court in Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2019) 13 SCC 523, while banning certain categories of firecrackers and directing regulation of the remaining, directed that on Diwali days or other festivals, firecrackers will be used strictly between 8 p.m to 10 pm only with different timings for some other festivals.

In the Supreme Court’s decision, the scope of the precautionary principle, even in absence of scientific certainty, was considered, apart from the contention of economic considerations, as a bar to remedy pollution.

In view of the data of CPCB, Tribunal stated that it is not possible to accept that in the State of Punjab ar quality is satisfactory or moderate everywhere in November. Bench stated that it needs a uniform yardstick needs to be applied based on objective criteria of air quality in the context of COVID-19 pandemic and associated adverse health impacts.

Green Firecrackers

While bursting of green firecrackers for the duration of two hours on festival days may be allowed in areas with moderate and below air quality, where not otherwise prohibited by authorities/Courts, there has to be total ban where air quality is poor and above.

With regard to the submission of States to not impose the ban of firecrackers or green crackers on festival days for 2 hours is justified where air quality is moderate and below but not where air quality is poor and above which may result in deaths and diseases.

Bench stated that to States/UTs falling in NCR and where 122 non-attainment cities are located, tribunal proposes to issue directions in rem applicable to all States/UTs.

Since air pollution aggravates COVID-19, not only crackers are to be banned/restricted depending upon air quality, all States/UTs, PCBs/PCCs must take special initiative to contain air pollution by regulating all other sources to pollution, particularly during COVID-19.

Conclusion & Directions

Tribunal in view of the above discussion held that a case is made out for issuing directions for banning the sale and use of firecrackers during November 9 to 30 in areas where air quality is ‘poor’, ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’.

Following are directions:

  • Total Ban against sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in the NCR from midnight of November 9-10, 2020 to the midnight of November 30-December 1, 2020, to be reviewed thereafter.
  • Direction (i) will also apply to all cities/towns in the country where the average of ambient air quality during November (as per available data of last year) fall under ‘poor’ and above category.
  • Cities/Towns where air quality is ‘moderate’ or below, only green crackers be sold and the timings for use and bursting of crackers be restricted to two hours during festivals, like Diwali, Chatt, New Year/Christmas, etc. as may be specified by the State concerned. If nothing is specified by the State, timing will be 8 to 10 pm on Diwali and Gurupurb, 6 am to 8 am on Chatt and 11.55 pm to 12.30 am during Christmas and New year eve (which have yet to come and do not fall in November but if the ban continues) and not otherwise.
  • At other places, ban/restrictions are optional for the authorities but if there are more stringent measures under orders of the authorities, the same will prevail.
  • All States/UTs/PCBs/PCCs may initiate special drives to contain air pollution from all sources in view of the potential of aggravation of Covid-19.
  • States/UTs Chief Secretaries and DGPs may issue and circulate an appropriate order in above terms with appropriate enforcement guidelines to all the District Magistrates and Superintendents of police, PCBs/PCCs.
  • CPCB and the State PCBs/PCCs may regularly monitor the air quality during this period which may be uploaded on their respective websites.

Matter to be listed on 1-12-2020.[Tribunal on its own Motion v. Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change; 2020 SCC OnLine NGT 860; decided on 09-11-2020]


Also Read:

NGT | Whether use of firecrackers be banned in Delhi-NCR from 7th November to 30th November, 2020 in public interest? Tribunal to decide

Cal HC | No sale or purchase of firecrackers in any form: State to ensure that there is no use of firecrackers during Diwali celebrations & Kali Puja

Case BriefsCOVID 19Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member), Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Members), issue notice to consider whether the use of firecrackers may be banned for the period from 07-11-2020 to 30-11-2020 in the interest of public health and environment.

Issue raised in the present application is in regard to the remedial action against pollution by the use of firecrackers against pollution by use of firecrackers in NCR during the time air quality is unsatisfactory with potential of severity of COVID-19 pandemic.

Present application has been filed in reference to the statement by Delhi’s Health Minister and Union Health Minister that during the festive season there will be rise on COVID cases due to air pollution. Further, it was added that the use of ‘green crackers’ won’t be a remedial option in view of the present situation.

“The smoke will choke and may create gas chamber like situation. It will lead to poor visibility, hazy conditions and asphyxia.”

Supreme Court had considered the issue in regard to firecrackers in light of right to clean environment in the.

In Arjun Gopal v. Union of India(2017) 1 SCC 412it was noted that air quality standards in Delhi are from ‘poor’ to ‘severe’ during winter resulting in the potential of diseases. Directions that were issued in the said decision were:

  1. Suspend all such licenses as permit sale of fireworks, wholesale and retail, within the territory of NCR.
  2. The suspension shall remain in force till further orders of this Court.
  3. No such licenses shall be granted or renewed till further orders.

Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2017) 16 SCC 280, It was noted that, the health of the people has to take precedence over any commercial or other interests, graded regulation of firecrackers was necessary which would eventually result in prohibition. Accordingly, directions were issued to restrict the temporary licenses to 50%, pending further consideration.

Supreme Court in Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2019) 13 SCC 523, while banning certain categories of firecrackers and directing regulation of the remaining, directed that on Diwali days or other festivals, firecrackers will be used strictly between 8 p. to 10 pm only with different timings for some other festivals.

In Supreme Court’s decision of Noise Pollution (V), In Re., (2005) 5 SCC 733, directions were issued with regard to the noise level of the crackers.

It has been stated in the present application that the above-cited Supreme Court decisions do not address the COVID-19 situation wherein the adverse effect may be so that the number of deaths may increase along with the number of diseases.

It has been added that several reports in public domain state that the air quality of Delhi is deteriorating and further deterioration may give rise to an increase in COVID cases.

Since the firecrackers emit poisonous gases like SO2, NOX, CO as well as the metal besides creating noise. In the given climatic conditions, this may result in respiratory/pulmonary diseases, diabetic, hypertension and other diseases.

Experts have also opined on clear nexus of air pollution with COVID-19. With increased air pollution, virus can cause more damage.

On noting the above stated, Tribunal issued notice to the MoEF&CC, CPCB, DPCC, Police Commissioner, Delhi, Governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on the question whether the use of firecrackers may be banned for the period from 07-11-2020 to 30-11-2020 in the interest of public health and environment.

Bench requested Raj Panjwani, Senior Advocate along with Advocate Shibani Ghosh to assist the Tribunal as amicus.

Matter to be listed don 05-11-2020.[Indian Social Responsibility Network v. Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change;  2020 SCC OnLine NGT 858, decided on 02-11-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

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)

Hot Off The PressNews

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 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]