Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., remarked that,

Insurance for lawyers has been an aspiration for several years.

In the present matter, while lauding the object of the Chief Minister’s Advocates Welfare Scheme, for advocates enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi, the following two issues were raised:

  • The first, is in respect of a condition in the Scheme that the benefit of the same will only be available to such advocates whose names appear in the voter’s list of Delhi. A large number of advocates who are enrolled with the BCD and practising in various District Courts, the High Court, the Supreme Court and other fora, have been excluded due to this condition, as they are not residents of Delhi but reside outside Delhi, predominantly in the NCR region in areas such as Noida, Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad etc.
  • The second issue concerns those lawyers who were unable to register for the Scheme within the original deadline and are thus seeking an extension of the deadline for registration.

Broad summarization of the reliefs sought:

  1. Issuance of insurance policies to all eligible advocates already registered under the Scheme;
  2. Quashing of the condition requiring advocates to have a voter ID card of Delhi for obtaining the insurance policies under the Scheme. In effect, therefore, what is sought is the extension of the Scheme to lawyers residing outside Delhi, in the NCR region/neighbouring areas, so long as they are registered with the Bar Council of Delhi.
  3. Reopening of the registration portal to enable advocates who have been unable to register as yet, to put in their registrations.

Point wise analysis of the decision

  • Whether advocates registered with the BCD who reside in the NCR region/neighboring areas are entitled to benefits under the Scheme?

Place of Practice v. Place or Resident? 

Bench observed that on a conjoint reading of the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961, the Bar Council of Delhi Rules, 1963 and the BCIPP Rules shows that insofar as advocates are concerned, primacy is given to the place of practice and not to the place of residence of the advocate.

Legal practice in Delhi and the NCR region/neighbouring areas

A substantial number of advocates who primarily practice in Delhi live in the NCR region/neighbouring areas, including in areas such as Noida, Gurugram, Sonepat, Rohtak, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, some areas of Punjab etc. Such advocates are registered with the BCD and are also members of the Bar associations of the court complexes where they practice.

The said advocates also contribute to the revenue stream of the Delhi Government by practicing in Delhi.

Therefore,

The advocates’ place of residence has no bearing on this whatsoever. Moreover, the place of residence of the advocate is also not set in stone. Depending upon the income levels of the advocate, the advocate may move to Delhi. It is a matter of common knowledge that not all advocates can afford housing in Delhi and may, therefore, choose to reside in the NCR region/neighbouring areas. However, the character of their practice, being essentially in Delhi, would not change.

Whether the scheme can be restricted to advocates who have voter ID cards of Delhi?

GNCTD had submitted that if the Government wishes to restrict the benefits of the Scheme to a sub-classification of advocates registered with the BCD as also residing in Delhi, the Court cannot interfere in the said policy decisions.

Whether Court can interfere in the policy decision of the Government?

High Court expressed that almost all decisions of governments taken as executive decisions would involve policy matters. Such decisions, as per the settled law would be amenable to judicial review, if it is seen that the same is either discriminatory or arbitrary.

There cannot be a hard and fast rule that in a welfare scheme, Courts cannot interfere, even if they are violative of the rights of a section of the citizens.

 Whether the sub-classification of advocates registered with the BCD would be permissible in law?

The scheme was introduced with the objective of welfare of the advocates. Object was to recognize the positive role played by advocates in society.

Chief Minister of Delhi had announced the Scheme with an outlay of Rs 50 crores to be utilized for the welfare of the legal community.

In Supreme Court decision of State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, AIR 1952 SC 75, test for determining whether a classification is valid or not was laid down.

Crux of Classification Test

There is no rational nexus between the grouping and the object, and the same is found to be arbitrary, the classification was unreasonable and liable to be struck down.

Further, it was added that submission on behalf of the GNCTD that the conditions to be imposed in the Scheme being one of governmental policy, the Court ought not to interfere in the same, would not be correct if the conditions are found to be discriminatory or arbitrary.

Bench elaborating more, stated that the GNCTD cannot impose the condition of residence in Delhi to advocates and not to its own employees.

The scheme of the Advocates Act, 1961 as also the various Bar Council Rules and Regulations give primacy to the place of practice and not residence.

Governmental policies are amenable to judicial review and if the allegation is one of discrimination the same would have to be examined on the touchstone of Article14. The Scheme carves out a distinction within advocates registered with the BCD, between those advocates who are residents of Delhi and those who are not. The Scheme is extended to the former and not to the latter. The said classification does not have a rational nexus with the object of the Scheme.

Hence, the Court held that the said condition and the resultant classification was discriminatory and arbitrary.

Bench lauded the Scheme floated by GNCTD for recognizing the need of advocates who belong to the various strata of society for having insurance for themselves and their families.

During the pendency of the petitions, a number of advocates enrolled with BCD with voter ID Cards of Delhi had already availed the Scheme and thus, the Scheme is already having a practical impact on the lives of advocates practicing in Delhi, especially during the pandemic.

  • Whether registration ought to be reopened to enable advocates who missed the initial deadline to obtain benefit under the Scheme?

With respect to reopening of registration for new advocates, a proper scheme would have to be evolved as the same would not be possible for the current year.

Upon extension of the Scheme to advocates from the NCR region/neighbouring areas, newly enrolled advocates and advocates who may register afresh for the Scheme having been enrolled post the deadline of 2019, the number of advocates who may become eligible may increase considerably.

High Court added that from the data filed by the BCD, it is clear that the BCD has funds to contribute to the Scheme, though the same may not be fully sufficient to fund the entire Scheme. The Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 2001 having been enacted for the purpose of welfare of Advocates, this Court is of the opinion that to the extent possible, the said Fund ought to be utilised to support the Scheme for insurance.

BCD either by itself or by receiving contribution from the advocates themselves ought to willingly share the burden.

Conclusion and Directions

a. The Chief Minister’s Advocates Welfare Scheme announced by the GNCTD is a Scheme that has a laudable objective of recognising the role of lawyers in protecting the rights of citizens and their constructive role in society. It is also in recognition of the role played by advocates and their contribution to the legal profession. The Scheme has, with this objective already enabled insurances for thousands of advocates in Delhi and has provided relief and succour to them especially during the pandemic. However, the condition in the Scheme that it would be applicable only to residents in Delhi with Voter IDs, is held to be discriminatory and arbitrary as the sub-classification from amongst the advocates enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi, has no rational nexus with the object to be achieved. Accordingly, the Scheme shall be extended to all advocates registered with the Bar Council of Delhi, whose names and credentials are verified, without the insistence of Voter ID showing residence in Delhi;

b. For the current year’s policies, all advocates who had registered themselves and are eligible for the benefits under the Scheme shall be extended the benefits. The GNCTD has already spent approximately Rs.40 crores to enable advocates to avail of the insurance policies. Out of the total number of advocates for whom policies have already procured, there are 5,044 advocates from the NCR region/neighbouring areas within the verified list of advocates for whom premium has already been paid. They shall enjoy the benefits of the Scheme. All such further eligible advocates, who had registered within the deadlines prescribed, as per this judgement, who have been left out shall now be included and the policies/coverage, on the same terms, for the remainder period of the current year, shall be procured from the LIC and NIACL by 31st July 2021. Only the pro-rata premium would be liable to be paid by the GNCTD to the insurance companies, which the insurance companies had agreed to, during the course of hearing.

c. Insofar as the future years are concerned, since the pool of advocates has been increased, the total premium for life and Mediclaim insurance, may be more than the budget outlay of Rs.50 crores. The GNCTD cannot be made to solely bear the burden of providing the insurance premium, though it is urged that the outlay may be increased depending upon the requirements, taking inflationary trends etc., into consideration. The BCD which has been unable to provide for group insurance for advocates, ought to complement the efforts of the GNCTD which has clearly taken the position that the issue is not being treated in an adversarial manner. Thus, the deficit on a year-to- year basis, beyond the budgeted amount of the GNCTD, shall be funded by the BCD.

  1. For the said purpose, the BCD may source the funds in the following manner. It is –
  • Free to utilize its own funds, including the funds collected under the Advocates’ Welfare Act, 2001.
  • Free to seek any voluntary contribution from Senior advocates and other financially well-off advocates, who may be willing to contribute for the betterment of the legal community.
  • The BCD may, if the need so arises, collect some part of the premium from the advocates who are beneficiaries of the Scheme.

Lastly, the Court added that the Law Secretary of the GNCTD and the Chairman Bar Council of Delhi shall be responsible for working out the modalities of the Scheme.

The GNCTD, after consulting the BCD, would be free to decide on the nature of the Scheme to be availed of from the insurance companies, either on an annual basis or on a periodic basis such as three years or five years, so that the annual premia can be duly scaled down. The new scheme in terms of the present judgment shall accordingly be announced by 30th September, 2021, after consultation with the BCD and insurance companies. [Govind Swaroop Chaturvedi v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 3676, decided on 12-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: G.S. Chaturvedi, Petitioner in person.

For the Respondents: Mr. Rahul Mehra, Sr. Advocate and Mr. Satyakam, ASC for GNCTD.

Mr. Sanjay Rawat, Advocate for NIACL with Mr. Gaurav Sharma, Branch Manager.

Mr. Ramesh Gupta, Chairman, BCD. Mr. Rakesh Khanna and Mr. K.C. Mittal, Sr. Advocates with Mr. Rajiv Khosla, Advocate for BCD.

Mr. Kamal Mehta, Advocate for LIC.

Op EdsOP. ED.

Introduction

Brick industry is one of the informal/unorganised industries in India. This industry is booming with the expansion of real estate business. It is a labour concentrated industry. In India there are more or about 1,50,000 brick kilns with approximately 23 million workers directly or indirectly dependent on this industry[1]. In National Capital Region (NCR), brick making on simply business-related basis started during the commencement of the nineteenth century.

Due to acute landlessness and high unemployment, the youth especially in rural India are bound to take money in advance from kiln owner for their daily sustenance by selling their labour. This arrangement confines their freedom to look for other locations to work in. It also hinders their negotiating power concerning minimum wages and services, forcing them to work in terrible conditions. A vicious debt trap sucks in these toothless workers; creating a situation known as neo-bondage. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) almost 21 million people are sufferers of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. And the brick production industry, centring on India, is an epicentre of abuse[2]. In contrast to older forms of bondage, which were rooted into a broad set of rights and obligations and were repeatedly intergenerational, neo-bondage is time restricted and added economic in nature. Neo-bondage is estimated to include around 10 per cent of the working population in the casual sector in India’s urban and rural financial system, namely, around 40 million. “Neo-bondage” exists in various industries in India’s rural and urban areas.  In Uttar Pradesh, this system was known by different names such as begar, bajgee, bandhwa mazdoor, sevak, bandhak, harwah, etc., and was prevalent in agriculture, brick kilns, stone quarries, matchbox, fireworks and factories of bidi, brassware, glass bangle and carpet manufacturing industries. It is prevalent in the most important seasonal industries where heavy physical work within an exacting time-frame is required. Since the majority of the brick kiln workers are uneducated or have low levels of education, it was experiential that many of the labourers had little to no knowledge of labour laws in India.[3]

NCR and brick kilns

National Capital Region (area 54,984 km2) covers 23 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. At present about 4018 functional brick kilns are operating in NCR (according to the Report published by the Centre for Science and Environment).[4]

States in Delhi NCR Number of districts Total number of brick kilns
Uttar Pradesh 8 2291
Haryana 13 1610
Rajasthan 2 252

 Number of Brick Kilns in Delhi, NCR

There are 8 districts of Uttar Pradesh covering under NCR, having an area of 25,327 km2 in National Capital Region. There are around 2291 kilns in the NCR districts of Uttar Pradesh. As per the data submitted by the Brick Kiln Association there are 13 districts covered under NCR from Haryana State and there are around 1610 kilns. Rajasthan shares only two districts with the NCR — Bharatpur and Alwar[5] with Alwar District having 142 brick kilns and Bharatpur having 110 brick kilns. Four million labourers are engaged directly or indirectly in this sector. The brick kiln industries in Delhi NCR are typically unincorporated concerns under owner management, mostly proprietary or firm establishments.

Recruitment and advance payment system fuels enslavement

The way the workers are recruited and paid in the kiln is critical to understanding the system of power relations which keep the workers poor and vulnerable to debt bondage.[6] Work in brick kilns demands physical labour that usually exceeds 10 and often more than 12 hours and normally leads to 20-40 workers at a time. These workers work as per their expertise and are paid accordingly. Moulder who prepares the ditch and moulds the brick is waged per thousand bricks. He uses the workforce of women and children of the family to mould the mud and to take the moulded brick to dry in the sunlight. The loader loads the brick into the kiln, which includes transporting the dried green brick to the kiln with the help of carts and animals, is paid a consolidated salary. The stacker arranges the green bricks into the kiln and “rapaswala” covers it with earthen preparation he is paid as per thousand bricks. The fireman fires the kiln and watches over it all through the operation, is paid monthly on consolidation basis. The “nikasi” or unloader removes the baked brick from the kiln and stacks them accordingly to the quality of the bricks, the women engaged in this activity and also clean the kiln after the bricks are removed are paid per thousand bricks.[7]  The workforce is migrant and seasonal. Production is stopped in the rainy season or by NGT during winter to curb the problem of pollution in NCR, the workers are not paid throughout the year. Payment is by piece rate and issued at the end of the season. Production and processing units do not directly recruit workers and their families, but rather through local, native intermediaries who are often from the same community. These agents of brick kiln owners known as jamadar come to villages to recruit workers with an advance or peshgi. However, by contracting out this debt, they are unknowingly forced into bondage[8]. Normally jamadars are either from the same village as the labourers, or from a neighbouring village. They follow the instructions of brick kiln owners, asserting the amount of labour required and paying part of the advances. Wage advances attract workers; as money is lent mostly for societal customs like weddings, celebrating festivals, for funerals and other rituals, follow by medical emergencies like surgeries for elders, pregnancies or children falling ill. Sometimes money is also borrowed for building a house or purchasing livestock. The money is mainly dispersed during the lost season which comes immediately at the end of working season. During the work season, brick producers are just given weekly allowance which cover their basic needs. Mostly workforce accounts are settled at the end of the season, with the season’s production deciding the total remuneration, and a deduction of the sum of advance and weekly allowances. Some go away with a little amount, others have settled their accounts, while still others, more frequent, remain in debt at the end of the season and will have to come over for the next season.[9]

Since the workers are uneducated, their financial records are easily counterfeit to maintain false records of the number of bricks made and the sum of money they owe. The liability adds up as the workers are given a sum of money for basic needs. This adds up to the novel debt and spirals into a sum that is away from the ability of the workers to refund. Neo-bondage exhibits some outstanding differences with the enslavement of the past. It tends to be time-bound to a season or fixed period, not indefinite as in the history; the credit-labour indenture is exclusively economic, missing any element of the previous paternalistic societal defence provide by the landlord; the contract is most regularly done through a employment intermediary; and migrant workers are particularly affected.[10]

 Brick kiln owners in NCR offer money in advance to the workforce who are worried to make ends meet on the understanding that labour will refund these “loans” in exchange for their labour. This “give and take” association is deeply deep-rooted in the brick kiln industry. The owners have an intrinsic interest in giving advance to the workforce, the key one being the maximum utilisation of workforce and the other is the labour bound to work at a lesser wage for particular period of time. The labourers are compelled to take advance from the kiln proprietors since they do not have something else to mortgage apart from their workforce. They are generally offered advance through contractors by which they are bound to wait at the brick kiln sites. Before they complete the time period for this advance because of their economic as well as physical condition they again receive one more advance and this situation of neo-bondage continues.

Constitutional and Bonded Labour Regulations

In accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution of India[11] that guarantees the right to life with dignity to every citizen of India, MGNREGA[12] imparts dignity to the rural people with an assurance of livelihood security[13]. Article 16 of the Constitution[14] guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prevents the State from discriminating against anyone in matters of employment on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, place of residence or any of them. The Indian Constitution prohibited forced labour under Article 23(1) Part III of the Constitution[15]. Article 24[16] prohibit the employment of children whether as bonded labour or otherwise. The Constitution guarantees the promotion of welfare of the people[17] and eradication of the inequalities[18] and it provides for the State to direct its policy towards securing livelihood, commonhood[19] etc. By the Constitution the operation of a legal system shall be secured[20] and effective provisions[21] were made by the State for the participation of workers in undertakings[22] and for securing just and humane conditions of work[23] and a decent standard of life[24]. Under the Constitution of India, labour is a subject in the Concurrent List where both the Central and State Governments are capable to act out legislation subject to certain matters being retained for the Centre.

Union List Concurrent List
Entry 55 Regulation of labour and safety in mines and oil fields
Entry 22 Trade unions; industrial and labour disputes.
Entry 61 Industrial disputes concerning Union employees
Entry 23 Social security and insurance, employment and unemployment.
Entry 65 Union agencies and institutions for “vocational … training…”
Entry 24 Welfare of labour including conditions of work, provident funds, employers liability, workmen’s compensation, invalidity and old age pension and maternity

The Government of India ratified ILO Convention No. 29 on 30-11-1954, and enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976[25], which stated, “bonded labour means service arising out of loan/debt/advance. It represents the relationship among a creditor and a debtor where, the debtor undertakes to mortgage his services or the services of any of his family members to the lender for a particular or indefinite period with or without earnings accompanied by rejection of alternative of alternative avenues of employment, or to deny him freedom of movement. Then the person would be covered under the definition of a bonded labour”.

Forced labour, or enslavement, continued unabated and passed on from one generation to another. Another Act for workers’ security was the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008[26]. The Act was passed with the objective of providing appropriate and adequate social security to the workers engaged in the unorganised sector of the country. It would be pertinent to mention that ninety-four per cent workforce of the nation is busy in the unorganised sector. So, it is the ethical responsibility of the Government to give social safety to the labour working on such a large scale. The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, is surely a praiseworthy move in this course but this Act cannot be measured to be sufficient since its provisions come out more as a formality. It is not astonishing that a large figure of workers engaged in the unorganised sector is displeased with the necessities of the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. The most important issue is that “social security” has not been distinct legally in this Act. Besides, the requirements of the Act are moreover in many conduct insufficient or do not imitate the main objective of providing social security to the work force. Several labour legislations such as the Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923[27]; the Trade Unions Act, 1926[28]; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948[29]; the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961[30]; the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970[31], the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976[32], etc. have been enacted which are related to wanderer workers in an unorganised sector also. It is helpful to note that some pieces of legislation are added universal in character and relate across the board to all categories of the unorganised sector.

Neo-Bondage: A Micro form of bonded labour

Bonded labour, understood as one of a number of forms of non-decent work, should be set in the broader situation of the globalisation and neo-liberalisation of the Indian economy, which has accelerated roughly since the early 1990s. This has led to an important enlargement in development of NCR and thus increase of elevated range structures which needs more and more bricks as well as labourers. In both sectors workers are circular migrants and are one of the groups most vulnerable to bondage[33]. Bonded labour system is the most widespread form of slavery. The bonded labour system disproportionately exploits the susceptible castes and tribes, and migrant people, forcing man, woman and children into a state of perpetual custody. Four types of bonded labourers are identified in the NCR: first, bonded labour where there was a indication of traditional social relations; second, bonded labour in farming; third, bonded labour that was found in rural and urban unorganised and casual sectors; and fourth, teenager bonded labour.

As per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 “bonded labour system” is a system of forced, or partly forced, labour beneath which the debtor enters, or has, or is supposed to have entered, into an accord with the creditor. “Bonded labour” means any labour or service rendered under the bonded labour system. “Bonded labourer” means a labourer who incurs, or has, or is presumed to have, incurred, a bonded debt. Bonded labour is a type of forced labour, which is prohibited under international law[34]. “Bonded debt” means an advance obtained, or presumed to be have been obtained, by a bonded labourer under, or in pursuance of the bonded labour system. Once a labourer is rescued from bondage, the arrears or obligation that caused the bondage is extinguished. This uneven system between employers and employees inside the brick kiln business is exacerbated by the detail that workforce do not be given daily wages, but are paid by a piece work arrangement. Any belonging that has been seized is to be returned. The Act protects labourers from all existing and potential liabilities to repay bonded debts, and provides rehabilitation to labourers who have been victims to the system.[35]

The emergence of “neo-bondage” is strongly connected to the reinforcement of the casualisation and the informalisation of employment. Neo-bondage reflects the augment monetisation of product connections and of social relationships, as well as the growth of mass consumption. With the prevailing unemployment rate and sharp fluctuations in the demand for skilled labour, the workers may experience dependence on a solitary owner or an intermediary as a guarantee and job security[36]. The brick kiln labourers, as most of them are migrant labourers are exterior the boundaries of their social hold up network, and roughly all of the government schemes do not benefit those out of their place of residence. Furthermore, due to the seasonality of the brick industry, worker’s earnings are frequently suspended to the end of the period. This means that the workforce is often not given any amount for approximately eight to ten months, and as a consequence, which is often lower than agreed upon.[37] Debt restricts the labourers’ freedom and significantly cheapens wages and driven out of their habitat in search of gainful work, a major chunk of this huge army of labour is recruited in neo-bondage[38]. They may also have a loan from other sources. Workers not only have to have paid off their debt, but also have to be in a position to admission other opportunities. This requires mostly relations and networks, in a context where the workers’ markets remain extremely disjointed. Workers in the labour concentrated brick kiln sector are widely documented to be one of the most exploited sections of the working class in India.

The factors precipitating the susceptibility to bondage in unorganised sectors comprise distress relocation for work, lack of sufficient livelihood opportunities locally, no awareness or right of entry to the services of formal financial institutions and creative assets, illiteracy, existing social inequalities based on social group and civilisation. In destination areas, harsh physical, social and economic hardships, unequal labour conditions, exploitation at the offer of recruiters/middlemen and a total lack of communal protection for these labour further deepens their vulnerability. Majority of the workers are migratory migrants intra-State as well as inter-State migrating with their relatives for six months. In order to speak to the issue of vulnerability of attainment into bondage situation, the Project on Reducing Vulnerability to Bondage in India through Promotion of Decent Work was initiated in the year 2008[39]. The project was operational in the States of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. The main focus and finding of the project were regarding the need for scouting rural brick kiln technology. The Report states that[40]:

Every year, around October-November, brick kiln workers travel to other districts of their own States or dissimilar States in search of their income and to protect themselves from the hopeless poverty. They return to their basic villages after a period of 6-9 months, when it rains marking the finish of the brick-making season. Brick kiln workers are uncovered to poor living and working circumstances attached with poor remuneration. Lack of tools and techniques to decrease drudgery, makes brick making a very labour concentrated process. The simple techniques used in some parts have helped, but these techniques require to be refined additional and disseminated extensively. Several reports have established that the workforce and their children are exposed to high concentrations of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM), more often during the firing of the bricks (where ash is used as insulator) or during preparation of dough using fly ash, which is often stored uncovered. The workers carry the raw (green) brick and fired (red) bricks on their heads/shoulders with an average load of 9-12 kg which causes physical condition problems, including underdeveloped growth in younger children and young adults, excellent of skulls and women are particularly pretentious. The workers do not get any work-related health and safety training, often sit in awkward position for hours for brick moulding, and do not use boots/gloves while addition the dough. These result in small and major injuries, cuts, bruises, postural trouble, and body aches. Lack of access to medical care/primary healthcare amenities often aggravates the trouble. Lack of clean environment, non-appearance of safe drinking water often marks in disease such as tuberculosis and diarrhoea. Even though the brick workers are uncovered to these occupational hazards, coverage under any sort of indemnity or medical facilities is virtually unheard off.

Conclusion

The decrease of vulnerability to bondage at the brick kilns themselves is a larger challenge for the Government. It is still not clear which division of the Department of Labour should implement labour laws in brick kilns. The pattern of fascinating and disposing labour at brick kilns is one that resembles the practice of contemporary enslavement. The workers who are recruited are brought to a distant off region, frequently cut off from the rest of the town and made to live in appalling conditions. Being ignorant of workers’ rights, they comprise the least level of the pecking order of authority and therefore have no unions or organisations for communal bargaining and to put into effect their rights, they are bound to take loans for their endurance and thus being captured by neo-bondage. The Indian Government’s reply-to address the modern-day slavery or the neo-enslavement is limited to three ministries i.e. Ministry of Labour & Employment, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ministry of Women and Child Development. The criminal justice system has not yet been able to deliver justice to the victims of enslavement labour, not only in prosecuting the perpetrators but also in taking a long-term measure to prohibit and rehabilitate the victims. There is hardly any inter-ministerial coordination in the direction of working jointly on the issue. The State Governments are required to conduct surveys on a regular basis identify responsive districts which are prone to enslavement labour, find root causes for and forms of bonded labour and implement remedial measures. A special enforcement wing should conduct routine visits to ascertain the implementation of labour laws and welfare programmes in brick kilns.


* Research Scholar, Department of Law, Meerut College, Meerut.  Author can be reached at ravish013@gmail.com.

**Associate Professor, Department of Law, Meerut College, Meerut.  Author can be reached at anuragsinghmcm@gmail.com.

[1] Rinju Rasaily, Breaking the Bondage: Organising Brick Kiln Workers in Rural Punjab (2018) in Redefined Labour Spaces: Organising Workers Post-Liberalised India by Sobin George and Surely Sinha (ed.), Routledge, New York, p. 34.

[2] Brady, Andrew, “Blood Bricks: Ending Modern Day Slavery, International Business Times, UK (28-1-2008).

[3] Singh, Kainth and Gursharan Singh, “Push and Pull Factors of Migration: A Case Study of Brick Kiln Migrant Workers in Punjab” (January 2010).

[4] Centre for Science and Environment Report on Makeover: Conversion of Brick Kiln in Delhi-NCR to a Cleaner Technology, 2018.

[5] Tanya Mathur (ed.), Makeover:  Conversion of Brick kilns in Delhi-NCR to a Cleaner Technology (A Status Report), Centre for Science and Environment, 2018, pp. 8-9.

[6] Brady, Andrew, “Blood Bricks: Ending Modern Day Slavery”, International Business Times, UK (28-1-2014).

[7] Data collected by field survey in Loni (Ghaziabad District) and Sarurpur Kalan (Baghpat District) of Delhi NCR.

[8] Bhukuth, Augendra and Ballet, Jérôme (August 2006), “Is Child Labour a Substitute for Adult Labour?” International Journal of Social Economics, 33 (8): 594-600, https://doi:10.1108/03068290610678734.

[9] Slavery in India’s Brick Kilns and the Payment System: Way Forward in the Fight for Fair Wages, Decent Work and Eradication of Slavery, Anti-Slavery International Volunteers for Social Justice, 2017, p. 7.

[10] J. Breman (2007), Labour Bondage in Western India: From Past to Present, Oxford University Press, Delhi,    p. 7.

[11] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/VN1u87S9.

[12]Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005 that aims to ensure livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/7xf2szwQ.

[13] Jawahar Rozgar Yojana, Employment Assurance Scheme, National Food for Work Programme, Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana and Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana—MGNREGA recognised employment as a constitutional right.

[14] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/k8TMppSJ.

[15] Art. 23, Constitution of India.  23. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour.—(1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law. http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/1RoWjnWY

[16]  http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/MhB7I48Z.

[17] Art. 38(1), Constitution of India. — The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice, social, economic and political shall inform all the institutions of the national life.

[18] Art. 38(2), Constitution of India. — The State shall in particular, strive to minimise the inequalities in income facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different avocations.

http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/pd9EUWHe

[19] Art. 39, Constitution of India: (a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood; and (e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and tender age of children are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

[20] Art. 39-A, Constitution of India http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/66p43PQk: The operation of a legal system shall be secured by the State which promotes justice, … to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.

http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/HgecD61Z

[21] Art. 41, Constitution of India: …shall make effective provisions for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in case of employment….

http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/4K1yIhAx

[22] Art. 43-A, Constitution of India: The State shall take steps, by suitable legislation or in any other way, to secure the participation of workers in the management of undertakings, establishments or other organisations engaged in any industry.

http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/tM0669I8

[23] Art. 42, Constitution of India: The State shall make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/9YVL1E6k

[24] Art. 43, Constitution of India: The State shall endeavour to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organization or in any other way to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social opportunities and in particular, the State shall endeavour to promote cottage industries on an individual or cooperative basis in rural areas.

http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/C86Lq30R

[25] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/537oMEWB.

[26] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/8LH2W50g.

[27] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/uttEfohO.

[28] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/4jkI2Q88.

[29] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/IqRnX11j.

[30] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/07hBlTVN.

[31] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/LhtVkG1F.

[32] http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/s5G12f5T.

[33] Abhijit Dasgupta and N. Purendra Prasad (2018), Silent Violence and Neo-Bondage in the Urban Informal Sector in India Migration Report 2017: Forced Migration by S. Irudaya Rajan (ed.), Taylor and Francis, New Delhi, p. 212.

[34] ILO Convention (No. 29) Forced Labour Convention (1930); ILO Convention (No.105) Concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour (1957); Protocol to the 1930 Forced Labour Convention (2014).

[35] State Action Plan for Release, Rescue and Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour and Implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 GO(Ms) No. 163 Labour and Employment (U1) Department dated 21-9-2017.

[36] Ibid.

[37] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Bricks_Campaign #Modern_slavery_in_the_Indian_brick_kiln_industry.

[38] Jan Breman (2019), Capitalism, Inequality and Labour in India, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, p. 238.

[39] Joint collaboration of Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), Government of India; International Labour Organisation (ILO), India and the Department of Labour and Employment, Tamil Nadu.

[40] International Labour Organisation (2013), Reducing Vulnerability to Bondage in India through Promotion of Decent Work, available at <https://www.ilo.org/newdelhi/whatwedo/projects/WCMS_195622/lang–en/index.htm>, assessed on 10-4-2020.

Air Quality
Hot Off The PressNews

The members of Commission for Air Quality Management(CAQM)in National Capital Region and adjoining Areas met and reviewed the air quality scenario in the region, actions taken by various agencies so far and further steps to be taken for improving the air quality.

The Commission noted that future action will necessitate consultation with various stakeholders. However, at this stage, the Commission stressed the need to strictly enforce existing laws, rules, guidelines, directions and standard operating procedures to minimize air pollution on an emergency basis.

The Commission also felt that active public involvement is critical in the abatement of air pollution and identified the following major immediate measures:

1.       Minimize use of personalized transport to the extent possible

2.       Restrict travel unless absolutely essential

3.       Encourage work from home

4.       Strict enforcement of laws and rules regarding dust control measures including at construction sites

5.       Strict enforcement to prevent burning of municipal solid waste and biomass

6.       Intensify water sprinkling particularly in dust prone areas

7.       Use of anti-smog guns at pollution hotspots specially at construction sites

8.       Strict implementation of extant rules, Courts and Tribunal orders regarding stubble burning and use of firecrackers

9.       Seek co-operation from civil society and public-spirited citizens to report air pollution incidents on the Sameer App

10.     Encourage coal using industries in NCR to minimize the use of coal in the coming months.


Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

[Press Release dt. 09-11-2020]

[Source: PIB]

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]

Legislation UpdatesStatutes/Bills/Ordinances

President promulgates the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 for better co-ordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index and matter connected.

Under the said Ordinance, a Commission for Air Quality Management In National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas will be constituted under Section 3.

Section 11 lays down that the Commission shall have at least the following three sub-committees:

  • Sub-Committee on Monitorig and Identification
  • Sub-Committee on Safeguarding and Enforcement
  • Sub-Committee on Research and Development

Powers and Functions of the Commission have been laid down under Section 12.

  • Shall issue directions and entertain complaints for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the air in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas and shall also have the duty to take all such measures for protecting and improving the air quality.
  • Commission can take measures to abate air pollution and to regulate or prohibit activities that are likely to cause or increase pollution in NCR and adjoining areas.
  • Commission or any officer authorised by it shall for the purpose of analysis have power to take samples of air from any factory, premises or other place in such manner as may be prescribed.
  • In regard to discharge of functions and exercising of its authority, the Commission and the sub-committees mentioned in Section 11 will be bound by the directions and orders of the Central Government.
  • Commission can take up matters suo motu or on the basis of complaints made by any individual, representative body or organisation functioning in the filed of environment.
  • Commission shall provide the mechanism and the means to implement in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas
  • Provide an effective framework and platform in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas.

Read the detailed Ordinance here:222804


Ministry of Law and Justice

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J. requested Centre to consider the grievances with regard to disaster management operations in NCR with emphasis on synchronization of the work under the National Capital Region Planning Board Act, 1985 and the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 under a single nodal agency.

Present Public Interest Litigation was filed with following prayers put forward:

  • Issue directions to the centre to appoint a single nodal agency to carry out disaster management operations in the National Capital Region by having powers under the NCRPB Act and DM Act
  • Issue directions to Centre to implement the Regional Plan 2021 under the National Capital Region Planning Board Act, 1985 specifically measures in relation to medical infrastructure and disaster management;
  • Issue directions to Centre/District/State authorities of NCR Region to work in tandem and provide a single set of parameters under a common COVID-19 response plan for the entire NCR region.
  • Issue directions to Centre and other agencies concerned to effectively implement the Regional Plans under Section 7 of the NCRPB Act.
  • Issue directions to the Central / State Governments & District level authorities of NCR region to work in tandem and provide a single set of parameters / directions / guidelines to implement the Study on Health Infrastructure in NCR as published by the NCRPB in December 2015 on its website, which has highlighted several other key gaps in the health infrastructure of the NCR region, in addition to the disparity in terms of health infrastructure between Delhi and other NCR region, resulting in disharmonious development of NCR region resulting in day to day difficulties being suffered by the citizens of the country staying in NCR region outside of Delhi area but contributing to the revenue generation of Delhi.

Petitioner’s counsel submitted that it would suffice for the disposal of the PIL, if the same would be treated as a representation by the respondents and decided in accordance with law and also keeping in mind the provisions of National Capital Region Planning Board Act, 1985 to be read with National Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Bench requested the respondent authorities to consider the grievances as pointed above specially the synchronization of the work under the National Capital Region Planning Board Act, 1985 and the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 under a single nodal agency.

Court added that the said exercise will be carried out as early as possible and practicable.

Petition was disposed of in the above view. [Arjun Narang v. UOI, WP (C) 4115 of 2020, decided on 10-07-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The Principal Secretary to PM, Shri P.K. Mishra, reviewed at a high-level meeting, the situation arising out of severe air pollution in the National Capital Region, and other parts of North India.

Senior officials from the States of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, joined the meeting through video conferencing.

The Cabinet Secretary will monitor the situation with these States on a daily basis.

Chief Secretaries of these States have been asked to monitor the situation in various districts of their respective States, on a 24×7 basis.


[Source: narendramodi.in]

[Image Credits: ANI]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Anant S. Dave, ACJ. and Biren Vaishnav, J. disposed of a writ petition without going into the merits of it. 

This petition was filed by a Gujarat based Non-Profit Organisation as a result of an increase in pollution and environmental degradation. An RTI application was filed, to supply details of a number of BRTS buses plying on CNG based engine and the reply received was that there are no CNG buses in the city of Ahmedabad.

Counsel for the petitioner, N.M. Kapadia alleges that the reply is arbitrary as the State authorities are duty bound under Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution of India to safeguard the environment. The cases like M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (2016) 4 SCC 269 and Vardhman Kaushik v. Union of India, Original Application No. 21 of 2014 of the National Green Tribunal, New Delhi were referred to.

The petitioner prayed dutifully for the following:

A. Issuance of Writ of mandamus or order directing the ban on Diesel Goods Carriers including Chhakdas and of BS I and BS-II stage old autorickshaws instead only CNG auto rickshaws of BS IV stage be permitted.

B. Ban on diesel vehicles of more than 10 years old and on petrol vehicles of more than 15 years old.

The Court after observing the matter submitted before it advised the petitioner to take alternative efficacious remedy before the National Green Tribunal and thus, disposed of the petition.[Paryavaran Mitra v. Secretary, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 1193, decided on 24-06-2019]