Courting justice

The law reigned supreme as recently, some environmental and public health truants were rebuked for cocking a snook at all set standards

Published: Friday 31 May 1996

RECENTLY, the Supreme Court's deliberations on some cases of environmental defaults indeed came as a breather when the Union ministry of environment and forests (MEF) secretary, N Krishnan, was hauled up by the Court. A division bench comprising Justice J S Verma and Justice B N Kripal, severely castigated him for being unable to tell the court "what the factual position was", in the context of the import of hazardous wastes, their effect on the environment, and whether there was any way of treating this waste.

The judges commented that it was sad that the MEF secretary's overall approach had been casual, and that although a court notice was served on the MEF on October 20, 1995, Krishnan had been unable to inform the Court about the Centre's activities. The judges found his affidavit, presented to the Court, devoid of the details they had sought.

The public interest litigation (PLL) in this case, had been filed by the Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science and Technology and Natural Resource in October 1995, seeking a ban on import of all hazardous substances, amendment of rules with reference to the Basel Convention agreements and protective gear for workers employed in hazardous factories and units.

Counsel for the petitioner, Indira jaisingh and Satish Parikh, state that the Central Pollution Control Board, in its affidavit, had noted that the technology to treat this waste was not available in the country. But the party mentioned in the PIL (Bharat Zinc Limited) had claimed to have the technology to treat the waste (zinc ash) they imported.

In another heartening incident, Justice Kuldip Singh and justice Venkatasamy of the apex court, have directed the court commissioner, Krishan Mahajan, to draw up an implementation programme for the National Leprosy Eradication Programme. The case (Yashwant versus the Union of India) has been pending since 1984& According to Mahajan, while there existed on paper a comprehensive medical plan for treating the leprosy afflicted, little of it was actually being followed. Moreover, the social rehabilitation plans were not implemented well, besides being often misused.

Lepers arrested for begging were detained at the leprosy home at Tahirpur in Delhi, the expenditure on each person being Rs 450. Additional facilities like food, clothing and shelter were also provided. The court commissioner also reported rampant misuse of the Tahirpur complex, where leper families had settled for generations and the leper complex lands were encroached upon. The Supreme Court directed the commissioner to draw up plans on the strength that he had already done considerable work on the case.

Coming to the issue of industrial pollution, justice Kuldip Singh expressed dissatisfaction about the way the Delhi Administration had proceeded over the issue of disposal of lands belonging to industries that had been asked to relocate from Delhi, following a PIL filed by M C Mehta, the environ- mental lawyer. While there had been no hitch from the units over relocation, the question of land disposal still hangs fire.

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