15 March 2023 8:57 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court on Tuesday(March 14) came down heavily on the Cochin Municipal Corporation on the lapses in the contract entered into by it with the private party that was given the responsibility to manage the solid waste at the Brahmapuram site. The Division Bench comprising Justice S.V. Bhatti and Justice Basant Balaji told M Babu Abdul Kadher, the Secretary of the Cochin...
The Kerala High Court on Tuesday(March 14) came down heavily on the Cochin Municipal Corporation on the lapses in the contract entered into by it with the private party that was given the responsibility to manage the solid waste at the Brahmapuram site.
The Division Bench comprising Justice S.V. Bhatti and Justice Basant Balaji told M Babu Abdul Kadher, the Secretary of the Cochin Municipal Corporation that when an agreement is entered into with a private partner, there must specific clauses on fixation of civil and criminal liability.
The court perused the agreement and asked the Corporation Secretary, “who is responsible for the all omission and commissions at the site? Where is the clause that deals with criminal liability?”. Even an agreement to purchase a small plot of land is drafted in a better way, the court remarked. The Corporation Secretary was asked to take the court through the relevant clauses in the agreement at the next date of hearing. The court also stated that such an agreement should not have been entered into without clearance from the Pollution Control Board.
The court warned the Additional Chief Secretary of the Local Self Government Department and the Secretary of the Corporation that great care must be taken when entering into contracts with private parties as no statutory obligation can be fixed on a private party and the only aim of such third parties would be to maximise profits.
The bench was considering the suo motu case initiated in the wake of the fire which broke out at the waste dumping yard on March 2.
The Court also asked the Corporation Secretary to revise the timelines proposed by him to speed up the implementation for segregation of waste at source and to ensure that all the trade licences granted by the corporation incorporates a condition to adhere to the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 at source. The Secretary informed the court that hotels and restaurants, being the bulk generators of waste in the city, had agreed to manage waste at the source after deliberations with the Corporation.
The Corporation Secretary also informed the court that a new tender had been issued for the operation and maintenance of a Windrow composting plant. The agreement states that the two-year contract could be terminated after one year if the work was unsatisfactory. The Secretary told the court that since he was unsatisfied with the quality of work he had decided to discontinue the contract after one year and submitted his dissent note to the council on March 2. However, the council has yet to approve this, he said.
The Secretary also informed the court that he had reservations about introducing a new windrow compost plant at Brahmapuram as new innovative methods of waste management were available. However, the court disagreed with the Secretary on this. The court was of the opinion that the windrow composting plant must be put in place immediately, as approval from the state government had already been granted in this regard. A new project would take atleast 3-5 years to implement and till then the windrow compost must be the first line of defence, the court said. When a new waste management model is implemented, this could become the second line of defence, but for now the court instructed the Corporation to not deviate from the current plan.
The Secretary also submitted before the court that he had discussed with his counterparts in other municipal corporations on the possible alternate models of waste management and suggested the bio-methanation plant at the Indore Municipal Corporation as a model to try to emulate in Kochi.
Justice Bhatti suggested that the authorities draw inspiration from the model adopted in Kodaikanal for handling plastic waste. In this regard, the court directed the Additional Chief Secretary to issue instructions for prohibition of littering of plastic waste at all hill stations.
The court also directed the Chairman of the Pollution Control Board to collect water samples from all the water outlets where seepage is likely to have occurred due to the fire and to provide the court with the analysis report of the water quality.
The court expressed its concern about the waste from five other municipalities being brought to Brahmapuram when it is only meant for Cochin Corporation. To this the Additional Chief Secretary responded that this concern was raised in the draft terms of reference and that the issue was being looked into.
The court referred to the executive directive issued by the State Police Chief to Sub Inspectors and Circle Inspectors to take action against persons littering waste and causing pollution of air and water bodies. The Police was asked to register cases under Section 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 278 (Making atmosphere noxious to health) of Indian Penal Code, 1860 read with 120(e) of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 (Penalty defiling water sources or water supply or causing hindrance to public sanitation activities or make public place dirty or causing serious damage to environment unlawfully). “How many such cases have been registered so far?”, the court asked the Additional Chief Secretary to submit a report in this regard. “We don’t want citizens to suffer. We want transformation”, the court added.
The court also stressed on the importance of environmental awareness programs in schools as part of a comprehensive solution to waste management. It directed the Additional Chief Secretary to collaborate with the Education Department in this regard. The court asked the Additional Chief Secretary to ensure display of the educational material published by the Central Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India in every school. The court was of the opinion that if kids are taught to not generate unnecessary waste, it will become part of their habit and they will be able to correct elders.
Case Title: Suo Motu V State of Kerala