SC Transfers 32-Year-Old Ganga Clean-Up PIL To NGT
“The entire issue is of monitoring now. We have passed an order long ago. That way NGT is a better body...the enforcement mechanism is with NGT now. The NGT Act provided for penalty and other penal provisions in case of non-compliance of the tribunal's orders”: Chief Justice J S Khehar.
The famous M C Mehta Vs Union of India, a PIL filed in 1985 seeking measures to clean up the Ganga will now be heard by the National Green Tribunal and not the Supreme Court
After 32 long years, a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar told Mehta it was transferring the PIL to the National Green Tribunal which was already seized of related issues saying only that green body was capable of periodical monitoring of the matter. “For us, to monitor week after week, months after months it is difficult...it can go there (NGT) and if you have a problem you can come back to us”, it said.
“The entire issue is of monitoring now. We have passed an order long ago. That way NGT is a better body...the enforcement mechanism is with NGT now. The NGT Act provided for penalty and other penal provisions in case of non-compliance of the tribunal's orders” CJI Khehar said.
The court then passed an order: “The issue relating to the river development and Ganga rejuvenation including discharge of municipal waste and industrial waste is already being heard by the NGT. Therefore we transfer the instant petition to the tribunal and the entire proceedings pertaining to the cleaning of the river shall be placed before the NGT”.
On January 17 however the bench had sought a status report from the centre on the steps taken to set up sewage treatment plants along the banks of the holy river.
In the last hearing on January last year the Centre had said that Ganga will be totally cleaned by 2018. The SC had sought to know whether the government was serious about completing the clean-up exercise during its current tenure or wanted to keep it alive as a poll issue for the next general elections
“Absolutely not. We don’t want to keep it alive. We want to do it by 2018,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar had submitted.
The court had said the government should be “more worried” about the pollution in the river since this government had pledged its commitment to the issue.
“The net effect as on today is that Rs 2,000 crore has already been spent and the river is still polluted. Fortunately money is not a problem with the government but we want to see the results on ground. Show us the output that can be objectively verified,” the bench told the Solicitor General.
Kumar drew the court’s attention to the government’s last affidavit wherein it had highlighted creation of a new ministry — the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation — and submitted that cleaning the river remained a top priority. He also read out the progress made in the relevant projects.
The court, however, said: “These are all bureaucratic jargon. We don’t want to be dragged into this jumble. You may call it Ganga mission or rejuvenation or conservation or whatever you may like but we would only want to understand it in terms of verifiable projects. You tell us in simple terms what are you going to do. Tell us what do we get when we lift a sample of water from the river.”
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.