Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (July 6-10, 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 11 July 2020

SC to look into the sale of BS-IV vehicles

The Supreme Court July 8, 2020 recalled its March 27 order over the sale of Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) vehicles after March 31 due to the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The counsel — appearing on behalf of applicant Federation of Automobile Dealers Association — said a total 700,000 two-wheelers, 15,000 passenger cars and 12,000 commercial vehicles across India remained unsold.

Of these, 105,000 two-wheelers, 2,250 passenger cars and 2,000 commercial vehicles were unregistered.

The apex court directed sold vehicles to be registered by April 30 and directed the applicant to furnish details of purchasers and registration within seven days.

Figures furnished by the federation indicated more sales during the lockdown period compared to the non-lockdown period, the court noted in its July 8 order. The court said its earlier order was passed only on consideration that, during lockdown, sellers were unable to sell any vehicles.

“The benefit of the order cannot be taken two ways by making more sales during the lockdown and getting a grace period of ten days after March 31,” the order said.

The vehicles shall be treated to be with dealers as if they were not sold and consideration, if any received, shall be returned to purchasers, the court said. No BS-IV vehicles sold after March 31 will be registered, the court added.

The Additional Solicitor General of India Aishwarya Bhati was asked by the court to verify — according to the list submitted — which vehicles’ registration details were actually put up on the Union government’s E-Vahan portal. The additional solicitor general was also asked to verify data from other states not uploaded on the portal.

The court said it will consider the question of registration only after data was ascertained and filed before it and not before that. “We have to see whether transactions during the lockdown were genuine or if they were back dated," the court said in its order.

Maharashtra tiger corridors 

Road projects in Maharashtra’s tiger corridors need to follow all safety procedures for the protection of wildlife, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said July 7.

The projects could proceed, subject to the action plan prepared by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the court added.

The NGT order came in the wake of objections raised by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The ministry said it would not be able fund additional mitigation measures for wildlife safety.

Accident at Neyveli power plant

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) submitted its report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) July 6 on the boiler blast incident at Neyveli Lignite Corporation India Ltd (NLCIL), Thermal Power Station-II, Cuddalore district. The incident took place on July 1.

The chief general manager of TPS-II, NLCIL, furnished incident report to TNPCB, informing them of a fire accident that occurred when Unit-V of TPS-II with a 210-megawatt capacity was taken up for maintenance. At least six workers died and 17 were injured.

A joint inspection by the joint chief environmental engineer, Tiruchirappalli zone and department of energy and environment, Cuddalore, was carried out July 3.

NLCIL officials told the inspection team that the cleaning of lignite dust deposition inside the horizontal box girder may have been done with the help of metal scrappers and the lignite particles were ignited due to friction. The combustion within the girder caused workers to suffocate.

The industry stopped operations of four boiler units after the fire accident. An ambient air-quality survey was conducted in the vicinity in July 3-4. The report is awaited.

Deputy director of boilers, Neyveli, in his letter to the director of boilers reported that “the accident occurred due to the combustion in the structural parts while cleaning.”

Compliance monitoring of EC

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) filed its report to the NGT on the implementation of monitoring action plan (MAP) for augmenting compliance monitoring of environmental clearances (EC) in the country.

The report said simultaneous action was initiated to strengthen the legal provision on monitoring as part of the EIA Notification, 2006, which, currently, is limited to paragraph 10 on Post Environmental Clearance Monitoring.

The provision only referred to the procedure related to self-compliance by the project proponent. The monitoring mechanism has now been integrated in the draft EIA Notification, 2020, which included procedures for monitoring and dealing with non-compliances and violation and associated penalties, among others.

About 8,000 Category A ECs and more than 30,000 Category B clearances were issued since 2014, according to the report. The MAP scheme must be designed keeping the quantum of work, manpower requirement and resources in mind.

It was mentioned the number of projects would increase once the ECs given before 2014 were also considered.

The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute presented the plan of action to implement MAP objectives that will involve use of analytics, assessment, integration and triangulation of data along with the EC status module.

The additional secretary, MoEF&CC, noted a comprehensive approach must be used. This must include monitoring at entity-level ensuring uniform interpretation of EC requirements for consistency across the board and a robust back-end process that prompts self-correcting mechanisms at the organisation level.

The mechanism for implementation of MAP must be developed keeping short-, medium- and long-term goals and milestones in mind, the report added. 

The report was uploaded to the NGT website July 7.

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