Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (August 17, 2020)

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

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 17 August 2020

Industries in Ambapada and Mahul

The Supreme Court (SC) August 14, 2020 asked the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to give industries in Ambapada and Mahul, Mumbai a hearing before pronouncing its final judgement in a case over air pollution. The case was filed by appellant Aegis Logistics Ltd over an earlier NGT order June 30 that found Aegis Logistics and other entities to be the source of the pollution.

The NGT earlier closed proceedings, despite an application before the NGT July 22 by the appellant, seeking to draw its attention to certain issues before the final order was passed. The court said the orders for the case were to be uploaded August 17. The order, however, has not yet been uploaded on the tribunal’s website.

Brief history:

An application before the NGT by Charudutt Pandurang Koli alleged the industries in the two areas polluted the air. The NGT — in a December 18, 2015 judgement — found Aegis Logistics Ltd and other entities to be the source of the deterioration of air quality that led to a threat to the health of citizens in the area. The other entities were Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) and Sea Lord Containers Ltd.

The NGT directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to prepare an action plan for the control of air pollution. It also directed a health impact study and another study for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) be carried out together with remedial action.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was directed to assess the value of damage to the environment and to public health July 15, 2019. It was told to recover fines from the polluting units.

The CPCB submitted a report March 18 assessing damages payable by the appellant to be Rs 288.2 crore. In addition, damages were assessed against BPCL, HPCL and Sea Lord Containers Ltd. Objections against the CPCB report were subsequently placed before the NGT.

The units sought a direction to the CPCB to disclose the basis with which it assessed the quantum of VOCs attributable to them. This was opposed by the CPCB that said the basis of estimation was data furnished by the units in response to a questionnaire.

The NGT directed the CPCB to provide the basis of calculation of the quantum of emission by July 13. The CPCB filed its report on the assessment of VOC emissions July 20 before the NGT. The appellant subsequently filed an application before the NGT July 22 seeking to draw its attention to certain issues before the final order was passed.

The grievance of the appellant was the application was not listed by the NGT and, without hearing the applicant over the July 20 report, the NGT closed proceedings and said the orders for the case were to be uploaded August 17. The appellant subsequently approached the apex court after the NGT did not list the grievance of the appellant.

The NGT by its ‘impugned order’ directed the CPCB to furnish the basis of its calculation of the quantum of emissions, according to the appellant. The respondents before it were granted the liberty to file further written submissions. It was only appropriate and proper for the parties to be heard before the final judgment was delivered.

Mukul Rohatgi, the counsel appearing on behalf of appellant, said the appellant desired to place its submissions before the NGT with respect to the CPCB’s July 20 report after the proceedings were closed for orders.

This submission was also supported by the counsel appearing on behalf of HPCL, one of the parties before the NGT.

SC order:

The SC noted the NGT — by its ‘impugned order’ — directed the CPCB to file a report on its estimation of VOC emissions and liberty was granted by the tribunal to the affected units to file their submissions in regard to the report.

Thus, it would be only proper if a brief hearing was given to the parties over the CPCB report. “It is appropriate and proper that the NGT does so in order to obviate the grievance that the final judgment is delivered without complying with the principle of natural justice,” the SC order said.

Septic tank pollution

The NGT directed the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) to furnish an action taken report on the matter of an overflowing septic tank of Unnati Construction Pvt Ltd in Aligarh.

It was alleged the septic tank in the area was overflowing, resulting in damage to the environment and public health, with no statutory consent taken. The court was informed the UPPCB through an August 28, 2019 letter asked the project proponent to take remedial action. The violations, however, continued.

Stone crushing

A complaint of illegal mining and stone crushing at Punjab’s SAS Nagar district prompted the NGT to direct the constitution of a joint committee to look into the matter.

The committee will comprise of the CPCB, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the Punjab Pollution Control Board and the jurisdictional divisional commissioner. They have to submit a report within two months.

Applicants pointed out numerous representations made to the concerned authorities, including the mining department and the local police. No action was, however, taken. In support of their stand, they mentioned newspaper reports about the mining and a First Information Report dated June 12 reporting attacks on villagers opposing the illegal mining.

Dairy farms in residential areas

The NGT August 14 directed the UPPCB to take action against dairy farms operating illegally in the residential area of Ghaziabad’s Chiranjiv Vihar. The court said action must be taken for violation of the Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981 and the Environment Act, 1986.

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