Thursday, January 18, 2007

Environmental degradation- PILs the answer?

Recently a PIL was filed in the Jabalpur High court against the deteriorating state of atmosphere in the City of Bhopal.

The PIL so admitted by the Hon. Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur comprising of Hon’ble Justice Shri AK Patnaik and Justice RS Jha is sure to raise storms in the administrative corridors as not only the State Pollution Control Board, but the Department of Food and Civil Supply, Union ministry of Petroleum and Gas and Ministry of Environment have also been impleaded as respondents in the PIL.

The PIL states that the main culprit behind the increasing pollution in the city of lakes, as Bhopal is popularly known , are the hundreds of public transport vehicles like the minibuses, three wheelers and the four wheelers which use adulterated medium of fuel, mostly kerosene.

The case of Bhopal is not a unique one; in most of the metros one can see minibuses using kerosene as an alternative fuel and in the process churning out emissions of dangerous proportion. The reason behind this is that kerosene is much cheaper than petrol or diesel being supplied at highly subsidized rates for the poorer sections of society. Thus using kerosene helps is reducing the cost of running as well as maximizing profit.

The law under the Kerosene (restriction on use and fixation of celling price) order, 1993 says that kerosene can be marketed only through Public Distribution System or through Parallel Marketers and it cannot be used for any other purpose other than cooking or for illumination.

According to the study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ACCII), more than one-thirds of the subsidized Kerosene is being diverted for black marketing or adulteration by the owners of the Public Distribution System (PDS)(1).

Under Sec. 17(1)(g) of the Air Pollution Act, the State Pollution Control Board has been entrusted with the functions of laying down in consultation with the Central Board standards for emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere from industrial plants and automobiles or for the discharge of any Air pollution into the atmosphere from any other source.

According to reports available with the Madhya Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, out of the 25 cases filed by SPCB against various violators in 2006 , six of them are against State bodies, including the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board, the local Municipal Corporation, and the State hospital.

The recent PIL has stated that it’s due to the connivance between the various State Bodies and the Private players that environmental rules and laws are being openly flouted in the state, and the state bodies are at their wits end to explain that why no actions has been taken against the people using kerosene.

Is pertinent hear to mention that the Petitioner Swapnil Verma is a IInd Year Student of National Law Institute University, Bhopal, one of the premier institutions imparting legal education in the country and that he is being represented by Advocate Siddharth Gupta , another product of the same college practicing in Supreme Court.

Its very encouraging sign to see law graduates from the law schools finally giving more important to the social cause, than individual ones. It’s not uncommon to see Law students preferring private law firms instead of going for practice in Bar. A lawyer practicing in the bar may not earn that fat sum of money, but the various noble thought that are inculcated in law schools regarding working for the society and poor can only be attained in the bars.

The government officials in this country suffer from the age old habit of going into deep slumber and it’s the tools like the RTIs and the PILs which can wake them up.

PIL, a tool given birth to by Justices P N Bhagwati and V R Krishna Iyer, sometimes has been accused of as a medium to make cheap publicity or for settling personal scores, but those who have used it for the benefit of society will tell you a different story, ask M C Mehta or the second year student, Swapnil Verma who is the brainchild behind the current PIL.

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