Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (October 25, 2023)

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 25 October 2023

Eradication of manual scavenging: SC issues 14 directions

The Supreme Court October 20, 2023 issued a total of 14 directions for the eradication of manual scavenging.

The bench comprising justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar said that “the Union and the states are duty bound to ensure that the practice of manual scavenging is completely eradicated. Each of us owe it to this large segment of our population, who have remained unseen, unheard and muted, in bondage, systematically trapped in inhumane conditions”.

The apex court, in its 49-page judgement, issued a total of 14 directions. 

“The government of India should take appropriate measures and frame policies, and issue directions, to all statutory bodies, including corporations, railways, cantonments, as well as agencies under its control, to ensure that manual sewer cleaning is completely eradicated in a phased manner, and also issue such guidelines and directions as are essential, that any sewer cleaning work outsourced, or required to be discharged, by or through contractors or agencies, do not require individuals to enter sewers, for any purpose whatsoever,” it noted.

The directions added that all states and UTs should ensure that all departments, agencies, corporations and other agencies make sure that guidelines and directions framed by the Union of India are embodied in their own guidelines and directions. The states are specifically directed to ensure that such directions are applicable to all municipalities and local bodies functioning within their territories.

“The Union, state and Union territories are directed to ensure that full rehabilitation (including employment to the next of kin, education to the wards, and skill training) measures are taken in respect of sewage workers and those who die,” the document added.

The court directed the Union and the states to ensure that the compensation for sewer deaths is increased from Rs 10-30 lakh.

The SC also directed development of a portal and a dashboard at the earliest date. This should contain all relevant information, including the information relating to sewer deaths and victims, and the status of compensation disbursement, as well as rehabilitation measures taken, and existing and available rehabilitation policies, the order said.

A petition was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking directions to Union of India and all the states and Union Territories to implement provisions of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 and Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

NGT directs Punjab SPCB to file report on area wise 'Crop Residue Management Plan'

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) October 20, 2023 directed the state authorities and the officers of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) to identify the worst affected areas within districts in Punjab known to be stubble burning hotspots and focus on these areas for proper remedial measures. 

PPCB was directed to prepare and place on record the area-wise Crop Residue Management Plan. The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) for NCR and adjoining areas also was directed to file a report.

The tribunal directed a notice to be issued to the chief secretary, Punjab and member secretary, Central Pollution Control Board. The next hearing of the case will be on November 8, 2023.

The matter related to stubble fires in Punjab aggravating air pollution. According to a news report published in the newspaper The Hindu October 6, 2023, the state had witnessed 656 farm fire incidents and the same were up by around 63 per cent against the corresponding period for the previous year. 

The previous year’s figures up to that period were 415, indicating a rise of 241 cases this year, the report noted. Amritsar district was the most affected with 429 farm fire cases and Tarn Taran Sahib district was second with 88 cases.

Air pollution in Delhi-NCR

NGT October 20 directed authorities to file their action-taken report on controlling air pollution from different sources in Delhi in accordance with the Graded Response Action Plan to keep air quality in the acceptable range and safeguard public health in view of the winter season ahead.

A notice was issued to the chief secretary, Delhi; member secretary, Delhi Pollution Control Committee; commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Delhi; member secretary, Central Pollution Control Committee and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The application was registered suo motu on the basis of newspaper reports regarding the deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR and the resulting health effects.

The court noted a newspaper report that mentioned that the Rs 22.9 crore smog tower at Connaught Place is lying defunct for the last seven months. Installation of such an expensive smog tower was a waste of money and it does not help in cleaning the city's air quality, according to experts cited in the news report in The Times of India October 20, 2023.

CAQM has sought time to obtain instructions and file an action taken report.

Pharmaceutical industries in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri 

The groundwater (bore well and piezo metric well) analysis report of Choutuppal in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, Telangana showed that there was no impact in the water quality due to operation of three pharmaceutical industries

The same was also concluded in the joint committee report of other state departments of Telangana constituted by the district administration of Yadadri Bhuvanagiri and also in the report by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute. 

This was stated in the inspection report filed by the Central Pollution Control Board, Regional Directorate, Chennai.

Out of three companies, two —  Srini Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Maruti Cottex Ltd — were found non-compliant with respect to discharge of effluent on land, nonsegregation of effluent, improper operation of effluent treatment plant, non-connectivity of flow meter, among others. The Telangana State Pollution Control Board should take necessary action against the industries for ensuring zero liquid discharge, noted the CPCB report.

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