Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (July 20-24, 2020)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal through the week

By DTE Staff
Published: Saturday 25 July 2020

Sipat thermal power plant

The time given to install a flue-gas desulfurisfation (FGD) plant in all the five units of the government-run Sipat Super Thermal Power Station in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur district was extended by the Supreme Court (SC) July 21, 2020.

The order came after an appeal was filed by the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) that runs the plant. The appeal was filed after a February 27 judgment of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The NGT issued two directions for compliance by NTPC:

  • The installation of an FGD plant within six months
  • Ensuring all railway wagons transporting coal were covered with tarpaulin

The process for installing the FGD plant had already commenced, said Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), however, on December 11, 2017 granted time for compliance till December 31, 2022 for Units 1 and 2 and until December 31, 2021 for Units 3, 4 and 5.

It was physically impossible to complete the process within six months as this period would expire by August, said Mehta.

On the aspect of tarpaulin covers, the NTPC coordinated with the Union Ministry of Railways and the process will be completed in a month, he added.

The apex court extended time for compliance, matching the timelines indicated by the CPCB.

Time to complete the process of ensuring all wagons were covered with tarpaulin sheets was extended by a month.

The SC directed NTPC to take all appropriate steps within the period and was asked to submit quarterly progress reports to the NGT to facilitate compliance monitoring.

Since the proceedings are to be listed before the NGT July 28, the SC directed for an affidavit to be filed by the appellant on that date, setting out concrete steps taken and that should be taken hereafter to effect compliance.

COVID-19 fund for lawyers

The SC in a July 22 order — over a possible relief fund for advocates hit by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic — noted that the advocates were bound by rules that restrict their income only to their profession.

They were not permitted to earn a livelihood by any other means. In such circumstances, the closure of courts deprived a sizable section of the legal profession of income and livelihood.

The apex court directed the issue of a notice to the recognised bar associations of the SC and all the high courts to show why a relief fund for eligible and deserving advocates should not be set up.

Further, donations for the same must be invited from their own members or other legitimate sources.

It was also necessary to determine norms for eligibility of such financial aid by the bar associations, the court added.

A notice was also issued to the Union of India, state governments / Union Territories (UT), Bar Council of India and all state bar councils. The notice was also issued to Registrars General of all the High Courts.

Smog towers in Delhi

The SC on July 21 expressed shock at the delay in installing smog towers in Delhi to tackle air pollution. The setting up of smog towers within three months was directed by the apex court in its January 13 order. An agreement was to be entered into for this purpose.

Areas where the smog towers were to be installed were also chosen stated an affidavit by the Centre and the Delhi government. The agreement was not entered into even after three months.

It needed to be signed within a week and a compliance report filed, the apex court said.

Biomedical Waste 

Segregation of COVID-19 waste from general waste was necessary, the NGT said in a July 20 order.

This was to not only avoid additional load on common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facility (CBWTF) incinerators, but also to stop further contamination adversely affecting public health, the order said.

The CPCB had filed a June 17 report mentioning steps taken on the issue and ground status of compliance. The report said improper segregation of waste was reported from COVID-19 isolation wards, quarantine centres and quarantine homes.

Segregation of waste was essential for its effective management, according to the provisions under Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016, Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and CPCB’s COVID-19 guidelines.

Mixing of general solid waste with biomedical waste will result in additional load on CBWTF incinerators not designed for domestic solid waste. The CPCB report said non-segregation of waste resulted in incineration of contaminated plastics.

The NGT said there should be regular monitoring by chief secretaries, state pollution control boards (SPCB), pollution control committees (PCC) and health departments in states and UTs.

Deep burial systems should be maintained where waste was not going to CBWTF incinerators by taking due precautions to prevent harm to the environment, the order said.

The NGT also asked the CPCB to submit a consolidated report compiled from information collected from all the SPCBs and PCCs.

The report must contain information as on October 30 and should be filed by December 31.

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