Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal has admitted an appeal filed by the Haryana Pollution Control Board, against an order of the Appellate authority which quashed the sanction for prosecution initiated by an officer against polluting industries in Haryana, on the grounds that it would amount to double jeopardy.
A bench led by Justice Adarsh K Goel, prima facie held merit in the submission made by the board that "Finding fault with 'sanction of prosecution' which is an expression used in generic sense for initiating the process of prosecution as per law is uncalled for." The bench stayed the order passed by the appellate authority on July 11 and posted the matter for further hearing on November 6.
Several plastic manufacturing units were directed to be closed by appellant Board for operating without conditions of 'Consent to Operate' and provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. On that account prosecution was also proposed and 'sanctioned' by concerned officer.
However, the units raised an objection before the appellate authority stating that "The use of words "grant of permission to prosecute" was not proper, as against the use of the words "authorizing filing of prosecution". It was further observed that the principle of 'double jeopardy' will apply in initiating prosecution as the unit has been required to pay compensation also on 'Polluter Pays' principle. This argument was accepted by the appellate authority.
The board argued before NGT that "Recovery of compensation is under regime of civil law. It does not absolve an alleged offender from being prosecuted. Principle of 'Double Jeopardy'
under Article 20(2) of the Constitution applies only to double punishment. Compensation is not punishment. There is no legal basis for invoking the principle of double jeopardy."