15 Feb 2022 4:16 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday stayed NGT's order imposing on Rajasthan State Industrial Development & Investment Corporation Limited a penalty of around Rs 9 crore as compensation for causing damage to the environment.The bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari while issuing notice in the appeal assailing NGT's order dated October 29, 2021 in their order said, "Issue notice....
The Supreme Court on Monday stayed NGT's order imposing on Rajasthan State Industrial Development & Investment Corporation Limited a penalty of around Rs 9 crore as compensation for causing damage to the environment.
The bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari while issuing notice in the appeal assailing NGT's order dated October 29, 2021 in their order said, "Issue notice. Until further orders, there shall be a stay of the operation of the impugned orders passed by NGT."
It was averred in the petition that RICO has made sincere efforts to resolve the issue of utilization of treated effluent from CETP Bhiwadi for reducing abstraction of quantity of ground water for industrial purposes and horticulture.
"All the pre-requisite work has been completed and the work will be commenced at ground within 15 days. The work for implementation of the project has been delayed by a minimum period of one year due to the first and second wave of Covid-19 Pandemic which was beyond control of the corporation," the petition further said.
RICO in the plea had also contended that the Tribunal should have invited objections to the Joint Committee Environmental Compensation Report dated October 20, 2021 inviting the petitioners to explain their defense.
Proceedings Before NGT
Haryana State PCB had approached NGT by way of an application seeking issuance of directions to Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation and CETP operation society for taking remedial measures against water pollution from the CETP.
Failure of the authorities to perform their duties had resulted in stagnation of untreated effluents and domestic sewage affecting the inhabitants in and around the border of Rajasthan and Haryana.
Based on the report of the Joint Committee filed by CPCB dated October 13, 2021, the bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel, Sudhir Agarwal, Brijesh Sethi and Expert Member Dr Nagin Nanda had said,
"We have interacted with the MD, RICO and Chairman who are present in person to ascertain why such a sorry state of affairs has been allowed to continue for such a long time and even now there is lack of commitment to remedy the situation expeditiously. We find in them unwillingness to take ownership and effort to just disown and shift responsibility, which is unfortunate. Their approach shows lack of concern for the environment and to their statutory obligations. They appear to be satisfied with the unsatisfactory state of affairs. The state PCB has not taken any meaningful action against such established violations. Similarly, RICO thinks its responsibility is only to set up industrial areas and if industries cause pollution, it is none of its concern to stop it. We are unable to follow such lack of concern and perhaps this attitude is responsible for damage to the environment for which the officers have to be held accountable by way of criminal prosecution and civil liability in appropriate proceedings.
13. Enactment of regulatory provisions and appointing statutory regulators is not enough unless such positions are manned by persons of commitment and competence with concern for the environment. We hope higher authorities in the State of Rajasthan will take further remedial action in terms of our observations for protection of environment and public health if they have respect for the rule of law. There is a need to fix accountability for gross failure in the past and also for prompt time bound remedial measures for future.
15. In view of the above, the reports of the Joint Committee dated 13.10.2021 on the issue of compliance status and dated 20.0.2021 and assessment of environmental compensation have to be accepted, without prejudice to further compensation being required to be paid to meet the cost of restoration of the environment ad also obligation to promptly remedy the situation by coercive measures against polluters by way of closure of polluting activity till appropriate treatment capacity is available and by positive steps as per mandate of law. The amount assessed as compensation may be deposited by the States of Rajasthan and Haryana respectively with the CPCB within one month which will be the responsibility of the Chief Secretaries of the said States. The amount may be utilized for restoring the environment as per plan to be prepared as per directions in the next para. The Chief Secretaries may also consider the situation at their level in light of the observations so that the authorities are manned by persons of competence and sincerity."
Case Title: Municipal Council Bhiwadi V Sumitra Devi and Ors| Diary No 1009/2022
Coram: Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari
Counsel for Petitioner: Senior Advocate Manish Singhvi and Pinaki Mishra, Advocate(s) DK Devesh, Nikhil Jain, Vinod Kumar Jain, Harshit Sethi and Satya Prakash
Counsel for Respondent: Senior AAG Anil Grover, Rahul Khurana and Sanjay Kumar Visen
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