Wildlife & Biodiversity

Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (June 15-19, 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 20 June 2020

Controlling Ganga pollution

The Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam on June 15, 2020 filed its report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the status of installation of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Sant Kabir Nagar and Gorakphpur districts to stem pollution in the Ganga.

The report was filed over pollution in Ramgarh lake, Ami river, Rapti river and Rohani river — tributaries of the Ghaghara river — in Gorakhpur district. The Ghaghara river itself is a tributary of the Ganga.

Eight of the nine major drains in the Rapti — that remain untreated — were proposed for interception, diversion and treatment under the first phase of the Namami Gange Project. The allocation for the first phase amounted to about Rs 240 crore.

The catchment area related to one major drain falling into the Rapti without treatment, was seprated by the Gorakhpur-Lucknow four-lane road.

A second phase for this under Namami Gange will be prepared and submitted by August 2020, according to the report.

Delhi Biodiversity Management Committee

The National Biodiversity Authority delegated its powers and functions to the National Capital Territory of Delhi Biodiversity Council on December 31, 2019, said a report filed by Delhi’s Deputy Conservator of Forest for the NGT.

The process of constituting the National Capital Territory of Delhi Biodiversity Council was in progress, the report said.

The report was a follow-up to the NGT order for setting up biodiversity management committees according to Section 41 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and maintaining People's Biodiversity Registers.

Transfer of agricultural land 

The Supreme Court (SC) upheld a March 17, 2009 Gujarat High Court that declared the transfer of agricultural land to a non-farmer through a will to be against the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948.

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

The apex court said the primary concern of the provisions was to see the “legislative scheme of granting protection to persons from disadvantaged categories and conferring the right of purchase upon them”.

This would ensure the direct relationship of a tiller with the land, the apex court bench — comprising of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Indu Malhotra and AS Bopanna — said.

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

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

“The avowed objective of the act is to preserve agricultural lands in the hands of actual tillers and to not let the concentration of holdings be in a few hands,” the counsel for the state argued.

Section 63 of the act clearly indicated that the transfer to a non-agriculturist was not permissible, the counsel said.

Consent condition violations

The Narmada Pradushan Nivaran Samitee (NPNS), in its report to the NGT on the Jhagadia-Kantiajal effluent pipeline by Narmada Clean Tech Ltd (NCTL), accused the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and a member of the Joint Inspection Committee (JIC) of turning a blind eye to the violations of consent conditions (CCA) by the NCTL.

The GPCB allowed NCTL to operate the effluent pipeline for four years (December 2016 - April 2020) despite continued violation of CCA. The subsea pipeline was operating without any common or final effluent treatment plant.

The JIC, in its report, admitted a hydro test was required to be conducted on the pipeline, but it had not been conducted before making the effluent pipeline operational, the report by NPNS said.

Further, there were 27 instances of leakages and breakages in the Jhagadia-Kantiajal effluent pipeline, leading to industrial effluent contaminating the area in and around the pipeline route.

Issue directions for welfare of healthcare workers fighting against COVID-19: SC

The SC on June 17 directed the Union government to issue appropriate directions to Chief Secretaries of all states and Union territories (UTs) to ensure the well-being of doctors and healthcare workers working with patients who have the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Any violation of the directions would be treated as an offence under the Disaster Management Act, the apex court warned.

An affidavit was filed on behalf of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the SC.

Healthcare workers did not receive their salaries regularly and there were no details of appropriate accommodation for them, with respect to quarantine measures, the affidavit stated.

Doctors or healthcare workers who directly looked after patients in COVID-19 wards were not given the facility of quarantine unless they were prone to high-risk exposure, according to ministry guidelines dated May 15, 2020.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta said appropriate orders under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 will be issued by the Centre for the payment of salaries to healthcare workers and doctors.

This will also be communicated to all states and UTs for compliance. Quarantine was not denied for doctors and healthcare workers who directly looked after and were in contact with COVID-19 patients, Mehta said.

The quarantine period should initially be for a week, which should be increased after looking at the profile of the healthcare worker, the SG suggested. This should be done looking at the requirement of doctors and healthcare workers to manage hospitals.

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