23 Nov 2020 1:50 PM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has directed the State government to make a statement on December 7, on whether it is willing to direct an inquiry to be conducted in the hands of a senior civil servant into the manner in which the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) is functioning. A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty issued the direction...
The Karnataka High Court has directed the State government to make a statement on December 7, on whether it is willing to direct an inquiry to be conducted in the hands of a senior civil servant into the manner in which the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) is functioning.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty issued the direction after noting that the Board was unaware of the orders passed (dated April 16, 1987) by the Central Government in terms of clause (a) of Section 19 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (for short 'the said Act of 1986') authorising various authorities/officers to file complaints for the offences punishable under the said Act of 1986.
The court said "It is only after the order dated 14th October 2020 was passed, the Secretary of the Board produced a copy of the notification issued by the Central Government dated 16th April 1987 under which, certain officers were authorized in accordance with clause (a) of Section 19 of the said Act of 1986, to file complaints for the offences punishable under Section 15 of the said Act of 1986."
As per the notification of the Central Government the Chairman, Member Secretary as well as the Regional Officers of the State Pollution Control Boards has been authorized to file complaints in accordance with Section 19 of the said Act of 1986.
The bench said "The Board (KSPCB) has to act as a watchdog and keep a vigil against all types of pollution whether it is air pollution, water pollution or any other kind of pollution including noise pollution. Till October 2020, when we passed the aforesaid orders, the Board was not even aware of the notification dated 16th April 1987 issued by the Central Government. Thereafter, the Board, along with the compliance affidavit dated 9th November 2020, has produced a copy of the notification issued by the Chairman of the said Board designating the jurisdictional Environmental Officers working at the Regional Offices as Regional Officers."
The court on perusing the complaints filed by the Board against the violators under the Environment Protection Act, found that at least, there are two orders wherein the Court (trial) has found fault with the Board for not producing any material to show that the Environmental Officer was authorised to file prosecution in accordance with Section 19 of the said Act of 1986.
Citing the example of a complaint filed in the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Bidar, presented by the Assistant Environmental Officer, who even today is not designated as a Regional Officer. The court said "Thus, in all these years, the Board did not even bother to find out who are the Officers authorized by the Central Government in accordance with clause (a) of Section 19 of the said Act of 1986. That is how in large numbers of complaints filed under Section 19 of the said Act of 1986, either there are orders of discharge or orders of acquittal."
Referring to the incident of Mangaluru City Corporation wherein in the first week of August 2019, due to heavy rains in Dakshina Kannada region, the rain water started flowing downward and escalated towards the garbage landfill area at Pachanady where dumping of solid waste was being made by the said Corporation. It is further stated that on account of extensive rains, the landfill which had crossed approximately 9 lakh metric tonnes, started sliding from the cliff and fell over the adjoining plantation crops, thereby damaging an area of more than 24 acres and destroying more than 4 houses, two small temples and commercial crops like arecanut and coconut.
The bench said "The activity of dumping undertaken by the Municipal Corporation in the present case is in violation of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 as well as the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016. Due to illegal dumping of all categories of wastes by the said Municipal Corporation, a large number of citizens were affected and their livelihood was lost."
It added "Even as of today, the Board has not taken any action against those who are responsible for violation of the Rules framed under the said Act of 1986 and even violation of the provisions of the Water Act."
Accordingly it observed "The manner in which the Board is functioning is a matter of concern as can be demonstrated by not only the case in hand, but also by several matters which are dealt with by this court. The State Government is a party to the petition. The State Government must consider whether an inquiry at the hands of a senior civil servant should be conducted to go into the manner in which the Board is functioning which is supposed to act as a watchdog against the pollution."