The Madras High Court has upheld the Tamil Nadu government order banning use of throwaway plastic which came into force of January 1 this year.
However, the Court lamented its poor implementation, saying plastic products were still freely available.
Dismissing a batch of PILs from Chennai Non-Wovens Private Limited and 29 others, a bench of Justices R Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy ordered the state government to stop supplying 'Aavin' brand milk in plastic packets and use bottles or find any other means.
The PILs had sought to quash the June 25, 2018 government order of the state Environment and Forest Department and a consequential letter of December 8, 2018 in so far as it banned non-woven polypropylene carry bags. The PILs had also sought a direction to the government to not interfere with the petitioners' manufacturing, storing, supplying, trading of the products.
The bench rejected the petitioners argument that Governemnt had no legislative power to impose the ban. It found that the Tamil Nadu Government derived powers under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act to impose the ban.
"... we feel that in the large interest of public, the State Government, in discharge of it's obligations enumerated under Article 246 of The Constitution of India, invoked the delegated powers vested in it by the Central Government under Section 5 of the Act, to which the State Government is legislatively competent to do so... by virtue of the delegated powers, the State Government has passed the order, which is impugned in these writ petitions", said the Court in this regard.
Apart from Section 5 of the EPA, the state government is also competent to impose the plastic ban in view of Articles 48A and 256 of the Constitution.
"Even assuming that the power of the State Government is not traceable under Section 5 of the Act, still, the source of power for the Government is traceable to Article 256 of The Constitution of India, which confers exclusive power on the Government to deal with certain subject morefully enumerated in List III of Seventh Schedule of The Constitution of India...
...Even otherwise, Article 48-A of The Constitution of India emphasises and imposes an obligation on the State Government to endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the Country. In discharge of such an obligation imposed on the part of the State Government under Article 48-A of The Constitution of India, the Government is wholly justified in imposing the ban on one time use and throw away plastics.", the Court said.
Ban not effective
The bench in its 90-page order observed that even though the government had banned single-use plastic products to make the environment plastic-free, "we feel that the ban is neither effective nor complete."
In spite of the ban, one-time throwaway plastics were freely made available for use, it said, adding the order can, therefore, be construed to remain only on paper.
Unless hefty fines were imposed on suppliers or stockists, the ban cannot be effective or complete, the bench said.
"We, therefore, direct the government to implement the banning of all multi-layered plastic wrappers and covers, which are meant for one-time use and throwaway, to make the ban effective and meaningful," it said.
Referring to the exemption given for supplying milk, it said the government can explore use of bottles or any other means instead of the plastic cover.
The state should promote alternative products such as cloth or jute bags for being used by one and all in the larger interest of protecting the environment from being hampered.
""... we wish to observe that slowly and steadily, plastic had infiltrated and intruded into our daily lives and the large scale use of plastic, for the purpose to which it was not intended to, had in fact sounded a death knell to our ecology and environment. By virtue of burgeoning use of plastics for all purposes, it resulted in mounting of garbage strewn all through the lanes and by-lanes of the streets and the Municipal authorities throughout the State find it an uphill task to deal with the situation.
Above all, plastics which are meant for single use are certainly a menace inasmuch as it is littered at the throw of a hat. The more the easier the production of plastic, as we could infer, be it one time use and throw away plastic or other similar nature of product, the more easily it is thrown away in the bins or strewn haphazardly, which causes great concern to the environment and it is a huge pollution menace."
(Image sourced from here)
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