Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (June 1-5, 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: Sunday 07 June 2020

Victims of LG Polymer  

The NGT on June 1 sought response from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on the alleged unutilised amount of Rs 574 crore that the Environment Relief Fund Manager under the provisions of Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 could spent on the victims of the LG Polymers gas leak in RR Venkatapuram village, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

The said fund could be utilised under the provisions of the NGT Act, 2010 for restoration of environment and compensation to the victims, the application said.

The Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sheo Kumar Singh felt the issue that had been raised as an Intervention Application, should appropriately be taken up as separate proceedings and registered as a separate Original Application.

COVID-19 negative individuals should not be ‘detained’ in quarantine centers: Allahabad HC

The Allahabad High Court (HC) on May 30, 2020 directed those who were quarantined and tested negative for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Uttar Pradesh — including migrant workers — be released once their quarantine period is over.

“People who completed their quarantine period and tested negative cannot be further detained in quarantine centres against their wishes. It would be in violation of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the court added.

The state’s chief secretary was asked to set up a three-member committee in every district to ensure smoother, greater and more effective functioning of the state’s quarantine centers. The committees should ensure the centres are not only functioning properly but are also maintained, controlled and administered efficiently.

The HC also entrusted the committee the task of providing help, assistance and guidance to those who are quarantined and ensure they are released forthwith, “provided they tested negative after completing quarantine period and there is no legal impediment in releasing them,” said the order passed by Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Saurabh Shyam Shamshery.

The HC was hearing a plea filed for the release of the members of the Tablighi Jamat who were quarantined after they returned to Uttar Pradesh after visiting Markaz Nizamuddin in Delhi on March 5.

Biodiversity management committees

Uttarakhand, Goa and Kerala completed the formation of biodiversity management committees (BMCs) and preparation of People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) in all their local bodies by January 31, 2020.

This was stated in an interim report filed by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) in compliance with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order of March 18, 2020.

The court had also directed all defaulting states to deposit Rs 10 lakh per month, starting from February 1, 2020 to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) till the time the task was fully completed.

Due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent lockdown announced by the Union government, there had been no significant progress in the formation of BMCs and preparation of PBRs since February 2020, the NBA report said.

State Biodiversity Board, Uttarakhand and State Biodiversity Board, Goa had informed NBA that they had completed the BMC formation and PBR preparation in all their local bodies by January 31, 2020. This was ascertained and found to be correct.

Uttarakhand completed the formation of BMCs in all the 7,991 local bodies and prepared the PBRs for all the 7,991 BMCs. Similarly, Goa completed the formation of BMCs in all the 205 local bodies and prepared the PBRs for all the 205 BMCs, the report added.

State Biodiversity Board (SBB), Kerala informed NBA that according to the Kerala State Biological Diversity Rules, 2008, framed according to the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, it had completed the formation of BMCs at the Gram Panchayat, municipality and corporation levels.

Kerala’s biodiversity wealth had been captured by the PBR preparation at these three levels and preparing PBR at block and district levels would only amount to duplication of work and incurring of additional cost, SBB, Kerala, said.

It therefore requested the NBA to remove the state from the list of defaulting states. As SBB, Kerala has completed the work in accordance with the Kerala State Biodiversity Rules, NBA has recommended to NGT that the state be exempted from paying the monetary penalty Rs. 10 lakh.

In addition, the members of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC)-NBA PBR Monitoring Committee undertook visits to different states in February 2020, to evaluate the quality of PBRs prepared by the BMCs.

During the visit, it was found that the PBRs were prepared on a fast track basis by Uttar Pradesh. As the PBRs prepared by Uttar Pradesh were not in line with the guidelines circulated by NBA, the Uttar Pradesh government had been requested to prepare the PBRs according to the existing guidelines.

Santragachi Jheel pollution

Inaction and inordinate delay by the authorities in saving the Santragachi Jheel from pollution and encroachment earned the ire of Justice Sonam Phintso Wangdi of the Kolkata (Eastern Zone Bench) of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on June 1, 2020.

The case was instituted on the allegation that the water body — a notified bird sanctuary in Howrah, West Bengal, was being polluted due to dumping of municipal and plastic wastes and building waste materials.

Besides, it was alleged that constructions were being undertaken on the northern side of the jheel by filling up portions of the water body. 

The NGT noted that even after the passage of two-and-a-half years and orders to settle the issue, nothing had been done.

The railways had to provide for the land for setting up the sewage treatment plant for treatment of the sewage diverted away from the water body and the cost was to be shared between the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) and the railways in the “ratio of the contribution of sewage”. Also, all the encroachments had to be removed. 

The tribunal was appraised of the fact that the HMC and the railway authorities were responsible for the inordinate delay, whether it was the question of lease of the land, the release of funds towards cost of the projects and removal of encroachers. M / s Mackintosh Burn Ltd was responsible for the project. 

The NGT directed reports to be filed within 30 days from the following respondents:

  • The state of West Bengal
  • the HMC
  • the M / s. Mackintosh Burn Ltd
  • the Executive Director, Land and Amenities-1, Railway Board and
  • the Executive Director, Civil Engineering/ Environment and Housing Keeping Management, Railway Board

The matter would be next taken up before the NGT on July 21.

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