Saloni Singh & ANR vs Union of India & ORS- Case Analysis

CASE ANALYSIS

(Order Application No. 141/2014)

CORAM –

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson

Hon’ble Mr. Justice S.P. Wangdi, Judicial Member

Hon’ble Dr. Nagin Nanda, Expert Member

saloni singh

FACTS OF THE CASE

A petition was filed by Saloni Singh, highlighting the pollution caused by the use of plastics products at railway stations, to ban open defection by humans on or near the railway tracks, encroachments, water waste/sewage treatment, water recycling and reuse, energy efficiency etc. and how railway administration has not obtained the consent under the Water (prevention and Control) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control) Act, 1984.

The NGT directed that observations of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) would be taken into account in the process of implementation of action plans of the railways for all the major stations.

Further, the team comprising of CPCB and concerned State Pollution Control Board (SPCB)/ Pollution Control Committee (PCCs) had the duty to evaluate the performance of major railway stations both in terms of implementation of action plans and compliance to the provisions.

ISSUES RAISED –

  • Is Railway administration under the preview of Environment Protection Act, 1986?
  • Is there compliance with ‘Plastic and Solid Waste Management Rules’?
  • Are compartments, tracks and removal of encroachments causing degradation?

JUDGEMENT

The principal bench of Nation Green Tribunal (New Delhi) held that major railway stations, must take consent to establish or expand to operate under Air (Control and Prevention) Act and

Water (Prevention and Control) Act, within 3 months, failing which the State Pollution and Control Board will take necessary actions in accordance to the law.

NGT held that since MoEF & CC has included railway activities in the list of some of the categories including ‘Red Category’ of industries is an indication that Railway Administration is within the purview of Environment Protection Act

The tribunal also sorted the contention of railways that restricted meaning should be given to the world ‘industrial’ under Section 21 of the Air (prevention and control) Act. The tribunal held that if pollution is caused by activities at the railway station, then it cannot be excluded from the scope of this act.

The following directions were issued to the Railway Administration by National Green Tribunal:

  • To identify at least 36 railway stations, which is about 5% of the major railway stations across the country, environmental system of standard should be achieved to develop them as model ‘eco-smart stations’ which can be subsequently replicated in phases across the other railway stations in the country.
  • For the said 36 ‘eco-smart stations’, Nodal Officers should be appointed by the Railway Administration who will be responsible to ensure compliance of waste management laws/environmental management system.
  • The proposed action plans should be framed by the Railway Administration. after identifying the ‘eco-smart stations’, on or before 30 November 2018 and should be notified on the government website for public comments. The NGT further directed that the actions plan so formulated should be finalised on or before 31 March 2019.
  • In coordination with the concerned Urban Local Bodies for solid and plastic waste management the Railway Administration may also consider banning the use of plastic on railway stations.
  • ‘Polluter Pays’ principle would be invoked by each and every regulatory authority to ensure compliance of Plastic and Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and in accordance to the applicable law the notified authorities may recover the cost of restoration, for any damage to the environment, which may be caused by the identified polluters. The railway stations identified as ‘eco-smart stations’ would have their own websites to receive and even grievances, with regard to cleanliness and hygiene.
  • To de-centralised municipal solid waste plants may be set up at the identified locations in terms of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.