SC to prosecute former commissioners of the KR Puram

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The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the decks to prosecute former commissioners of the KR Puram municipal body by invoking the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah has set aside the February 16, 2015,  Karnataka High Court order, quashing the proceedings initiated against the then commissioner of the city municipal council (KR Puram) B Heera Naik and his predecessors M A Baig and D L Narayan (among others).

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) wanted these officials to be prosecuted for going back on their promise to allow treated sewage water into the lakes, but the high court had ruled that the municipal council commissioner or the chief officer of the council cannot be regarded as head of a department and they therefore cannot be prosecuted under Section 48 of the Water Act.

“We are of the opinion that Section 47 (in charge of a company) can be regarded as for offences by a body corporate and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) by filing a complaint before the magistrate for taking cognizance of the offence,” the court — ruling on KSPCB’s criminal appeal — said.

The judges felt that the high court had erred in quashing the complaint. None of the officials were represented in the court, despite receiving notices.

The KR Puram municipal council ceases to exist since it was among several town councils to merge with the Bangalore Municipal Corporation in 2007 to create the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.

Though KSPCB had given consent to the accused municipal body heads to discharge effluent water into the lake after treatment, the consent had expired on June 30, 2006. The accused officials reneged on their promise to set up a sewage treatment plant (STP) in six months and had continued to allow discharge of polluted water into the lake. Their action had violated the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

The KSPCB had argued that the municipal corporation and the municipality that violate the law could be prosecuted.

Referring to the Karnataka Municipality Act, 1964, and the Water Act, the Supreme Court said though the municipal council cannot be considered the department of the state government, they could be regarded as corporate bodies. The Constitution also views a municipality as a body of self-governance, it added.

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