SC slams environment ministry, slaps Rs 2 lakh fine

SC slams environment ministry, slaps Rs 2 lakh fine

The Supreme Court today came down heavily on the union environment ministry for not finalising pollution emission standards for industries using pet coke and furnace oil in the national capital region and slapped a cost of Rs two lakh on it.

Terming it as a "completely disgusting state of affairs", the top court asked the ministry why the standards were not finalised despite its earlier direction that it should be done on or before June 30 this year.

"You (environment ministry) tell us what you were doing for 3-4 months? You file an affidavit and say we do not care about pollution. Industries have said they would comply with whatever standards are fixed. Industries says so and the ministry sits on it. We do not know what is going on," a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, representing the ministry, told the court that a draft notification in this regard was issued yesterday and a period of 60 days has been given for raising objections on it.

He told the bench there were 34 categories of industries in the national capital region (NCR) which use pet coke and furnace oil and pollution standards were fixed earlier for several categories.

The bench, while expressing its surprise and unhappiness, imposed a cost of Rs two lakh on the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

During the hearing, the bench was informed that despite the May 2 order of the apex court, the ministry has not come out with a notification in this regard.

The court, in its May 2 order, had directed the ministry and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to fix sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides standards for these industries after giving a hearing to a limited number of their authorised representatives keeping in mind the provisions of Environment Protection Act, 1986.

It had said that standards should be fixed on or before June 30.

When the court today asked the CPCB on this issue, its counsel said they had indicated certain emission standards to the ministry in June itself.

The bench observed that four months have passed since the order was passed, but still the emission standards have not been finalised by the ministry.

The court was hearing a PIL filed in 1985 by environmentalist M C Mehta who had raised the issue of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR.

Earlier, the court was told about the ill-effects of pet coke and furnace oil used in industries on ambient air and it was said that emissions from such units were highly toxic as these released high sulphur content.

The apex court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) had claimed that even China has stopped using sulphur-heavy fuels since 2014 and Indian industries have been buying pet coke.

EPCA had said emission of sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides has to be brought down for improving the quality of air in the national capital and the adjoining areas.

The apex court had on December 2 last year accorded its nod to the Graded Responsibility Action Plan (GRAP) to tackle different levels of pollution. It had also asked the CPCB to upgrade its existing infrastructure and set up additional monitoring stations in Delhi-NCR within six months.

The GRAP, aimed at reducing air pollution, has enumerated a number of measures which include closing brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers, intensifying public transport services besides increase in frequency of mechanised cleaning of road and sprinkling of water on roads.

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