While hearing a PIL seeking directions to stop sumping of bio-medical waste at Adharwadi dumping ground in Kalyan, the Bombay High Court directed the State, Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to ensure that the bio medical waste generated from hospitals treating patients infected by Covid-19 is disposed of in accordance with Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 and guidelines framed by Central Pollution Control Board on June 10, 2020.
Division bench of Chief Justice Diopankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar was hearing a PIL filed by one Kishor Sohoni. Court also directed MPCB to take strictest possible action against those individuals/agencies who breach the manner of disposal of such waste as required by the aforesaid ruled and CPCB's Guidelines For Handling, Treatment and Disposal of Waste Generated during Treatment/Diagnosis/Quarantine of Covid-19 Patients.
MPCB's counsel Advocate Sharmila Deshmukh submitted that the Rules of 2016 have been framed in exercise of the powers conferred by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and having regard to the provisions contained in the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, the issue raised by the petitioner ought to be agitated before the National Green Tribunal constituted in terms of the NGT Act. For supporting such contention, she relied on the decision of the Supreme Court reported in Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors.
The bench noted-
"The submission of Ms.Deshmukh does not appear to be absolutely without substance. Having regard to the decision in Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan (supra) and the decision of the Supreme Court of more or less recent origin reported in Mantri Techzone Pvt. Ltd. vs. Forward Foundation and Ors, a remedy is indeed available before the National Green Tribunal which an aggrieved litigant may pursue for a decision in relation to environmental matters covered by Schedule I of the NGT Act."
However, Court concluded that the petitioner's concern is to have the contagion, arising out of Covid-19, arrested rather than an immediate concern for protection and preservation of the environment. Court said-
"Considering that it is the paramount duty of the State to ensure that life of every citizen is taken care of and preserved and Covid-19 does not take any further toll, we are inclined to entertain this PIL petition as an exceptional case."
Appearing on behalf of the petitioner, Advocate Sadhna Kumar referred to certain photographs and submitted that the aforesaid rules and guidelines are being violated and steps for proper waste disposal are wanting.
Advocate KD Rao appeared for Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation and relied on the respective affidavits-in reply filed by them regarding the steps that have been taken to comply with the extant rules/guidelines.
"From the affidavits that have been filed before this Court by the MPCB and the Corporation, it is evident that there is at least one instance, where bio-medical waste may not have been disposed of in the manner required and a show-cause notice had to be issued to the Corporation by the MPCB. Prima facie, this lends credence to the concern expressed by the petitioner that the extant rules/guidelines are not being followed exposing the citizens to jeopardy during the pandemic."
At this juncture, Advocate Rao sought to clarify that the notice issued by the MPCB is in respect of general waste and not bio-medical waste.
The bench said-
"Whether it was bio-medical waste or general waste is a matter to be considered by the MPCB, while it takes the proceedings initiated against the Corporation to its logical end. We refrain from expressing any opinion in regard thereto. However, there can be no gainsaying that the State, the Corporation as well as the MPCB owe an obligatory duty to discharge their respective functions in terms of the Rules of 2016 as well as the said guidelines framed by the CPCB; in view thereof, we direct that all the statutory functionaries, i.e., the relevant department(s) of the State, the Corporation as well as the MPCB shall take all such measures that are necessary to prevent the contagion arising out of improper handling of bio-medical waste from hospitals and care centres treating COVID-19 infected patients and to ensure that the same are treated and disposed of in the manner ordained by the extant rules/guidelines."
Finally, Court asserted that in case the notices issued by MPCB are not adhered to and guidelines are still violated, appropriate action must be taken against such persons/agencies responsible for such breach. The PIL was disposed of.
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