Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (June 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: Wednesday 17 June 2020

Transfer of agricultural land 

The Bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Indu Malhotra and AS Bopanna of the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the High Court of Gujarat order of March 17, 2009, that declared the transfer of agricultural land to a non-farmer through a will as going against the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948.

Sections 43 and 63 of the Act had put restrictions on the transfer of land purchased or sold under the legislation, which stated that there should be no sale, gift, exchange or lease of any land and its mortage.

The SC said the primary concern of those provisions was to see the “legislative scheme of granting protection to persons from disadvantaged categories and conferring the right of purchase upon them, thereby ensuring the direct relationship of a tiller with the land.”

The court ruled that the provisions were designed to attain and serve the purpose of protecting the holdings in the hands of the disadvantaged.

The advocate for the state of Gujarat submitted that the basic intent behind the conferral of ownership rights upon a cultivating tenant was to see that the actual tillers and cultivators could be protected and given the ownership rights upon payment of nominal charges.

“The avowed objective of the Act is to preserve agricultural lands in the hands of actual tillers and not to let concentration of holdings in a few hands,” the counsel for the state argued. It was further submitted that Section 63 of the Act clearly indicated that a transfer to a non-agriculturist was not permissible.

Vehicular pollution

The bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S Abdul Nazeer of the SC on June 15, 2020, directed the Additional Solicitor General, ANS Nadkarni to collect details from all the Regional Transport Offices (RTO) throughout India and furnish information on how many vehicles of the Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) category were sold and registered after the lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Further, the apex court made it very clear that “now, no registration and sale of BS—IV vehicles is permitted.” 

The judges were hearing a bunch of cases on similar matters ranging from registration of diesel vehicles / machines / equipments of North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) for public purposes to the registration of BS-IV vehicles.

The SC allowed the registration of four chasis-mounted suction-cum-jetting diesel machines purchased by the EDMC in December 2018 as well as of 25 diesel-operated vehicles and machines purchased by the NDMC.

The report from Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority informed the court that “CNG and Petrol vehicles of CEV BS-­IV complaint vehicles are not available in the market.”

Groundwater withdrawal

The Noida Golf Course (NGC) in Sector 43, Noida, Uttar Pradesh lacked a valid No Objection Certificate for groundwater abstraction, the Central Groundwater Authority (CGWA) informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in a report filed before the tribunal. A show cause notice was issued for the same, the CGWA added.

The report was in pursuance to the NGT order directing a joint committee comprising of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), CGWA, Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, to assess the use of groundwater in NGC.

During the inspection, the committee found five tubewells for supplying groundwater for drinking, domestic and horticulture purposes. Two tubewells were found dismantled and abandoned.

Among the remaining three, two were operational and one under maintenance. The water meters were not installed on the tubewells and the log book was also not maintained for their operation — so the quantity of groundwater withdrawal cannot be known. The manager of the NGC informed that the number of rainwater harvesting pits were 32 in number.

The CPCB in January 2020 had collected samples of rainwater harvesting boring and of the two tubewells that were operational.

With respect to the quality of rainwater harvested, pH, Nitrate-N, total alkalinity, Magnesium and TDS had met the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) standard for drinking water quality. However, hardness and calcium were not meeting the criteria.

Fluroide, cadmium and zinc were found within BIS standard values. But arsenic, copper, lead, chromium, nickel, iron and manganese had exceeded the BIS standard.

When it came to the quality of groundwater, the pH, Nitrate-N, fluoride were meeting the BIS standard, while total alkalinity, hardness, calcium, magnesium and Total Dissolved Solids were not meeting the BIS standard. Presence of fecal and total coliform were detected, but not significant. All metals, except iron were absent.

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