Adherence To Environmental Norms Cannot Be Compromised Due To Cryptic Determination By NGT– Supreme Court
A two-judge Bench of Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice Hrishikesh Roy has held that adherence to environmental and pollution norms cannot be compromised for factual misunderstanding or due to cryptic determination.
The Court also held, "Orders which have direct repercussions on the right to clean environment must surely be the outcome of careful scrutiny and substantive deliberation, as per the applicable facts."
Advocate Mr. V.K. Shukla appeared for the Appellants, Additional Advocate General Mr. Rahul Verma appeared for the State/Respondent No. 1, Advocate Mr. Mukesh Verma appeared for Respondent No. 2 and Senior Advocate Mr. Dhruv Mehta appeared for Respondents 3 to 5.
In this case, the Appellants had moved the NGT for the purpose of relocating the stone crusher units over alleged noise and air pollution caused due to them. It was alleged that the units were operating in violation of the statutory environmental norms, in close vicinity of their village and also at a distance to the nearby schools and colleges.
The NGT had passed an order restricting the Appellant from operating both the units during the daytime i.e., from 7 am to 6 pm, however, loading/unloading was allowed up to 8 pm.
After the Supreme Court remanded the matter back to NGT for fresh order, the latter shifted the onus to the State Government to assess the functioning of the units and if they were found to be violating environmental norms, steps were to be taken for their closure. The Government also had to submit a compliance report to NGT.
The Apex Court observed that the impugned order of the NGT showed that the Original Application which was registered subsequent to the adverse Government Report against the stone crushers was never adjudicated on merits.
Further, the Court held that the issues were never taken to their logical end despite a clear finding in the Compliance Report that Respondents 4 & 5 were operating in violation of the Government policy and the Environmental norms and ameliorative steps were needed.
"The contesting counsel for the parties are in agreement on the aspect that the NGT should have decided the O.A. 449/2019 on merit, instead of closing the proceeding, as a disposed of matter," the Bench noted.
Additionally, the Court asserted, "There can be no quarrel with the proposition that public interest would warrant action against polluting units. This is equally applicable to those industrial units which have been functioning since long."
"At the very least, the Tribunal would be expected to ascertain whether substantial compliance of its earlier orders was made by the two stone crushing units of the respondents," the Court observed.
The NGT erroneously closed the OA that was registered pursuant to an adverse government report on the Respondents' stone crushers, instead of deciding it on merit. In this context, the Bench held as follows:-
"Adherence to the environmental and pollution norms cannot be compromised for factual misunderstandings or due to cryptic determination. Orders which have direct repercussions on the right to clean environment must surely be the outcome of careful scrutiny and substantive deliberation, as per the applicable facts."
In the light of these observations, the Court set aside the impugned order of the Tribunal and further restored O.A. No.449/2019 for its adjudication on merit and allowed the appeal.