The Gujarat High Court, which had sought an undertaking from a private tile manufacturing company, Kathos Tiles, to shut down their unit down, over a petition stating it had violated pollution norms, rejected the undertaking submitted in court on Wednesday.
Two petitioners from Talod taluka in Sabarkantha — Ambalal Patel and Mani Patel — had filed a PIL in 2016, seeking the court’s direction to shut down the tile manufacturing unit.
A two-judge division bench headed by Justice SR Brahmbhatt slammed the company for its refusal to agree to shut down operations. The bench had some strong words for the tile-manufacturing company. “We will be saying you are illegally continuing and your unit is hazardous,” the court said. “You may go on to approach the Supreme Court thereafter.”
The undertaking, as accessed by this paper, has no mention of what action the company would take, in case the alleged violation of pollution norms is proven. The undertaking states that the distance of Najera lake from the manufacturing unit and from its chimney is 600 metres. While the company admits there have been disputes about the distance, the company said it chose to undertake the measurement of the distance through an officer of the District Inspector, Land Record and also by a private agency, “so that the correct measurement can be identified.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, the petitioners’ advocate said, “The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had found that the manufacturing unit was merely 267 metre from Najera lake as against GPCB norms that require a 500-metre distance between a water body and a hazardous industry.” The lawyer said the lake was being used by residents as well as cattle for drinking and other purposes, and that operating the tile unit had resulted in the water getting contaminated. “They (tile company) have denied that the water body is a lake,” the lawyer said, adding that the tile firm told the court that it was merely a depression in grazing land that fills up during the rains.
However, the court has been of the view that the unit should be shifted to the GIDC or any other industrial area.
The court said, “Say (in your undertaking) that if the distance is seen to be within 500 metres, you will shut it (the manufacturing unit) down. It is a question of measurement? You’re taking (undue) liberty of this court.”
Justice Brahmbhatt remind-ed Kathos Tiles that he petitioners say, “whether you go or not (to an industrial area such as GIDC), you need to close down this unit.” The court adjourned the matter to June 18, when it is expected to deliver its order.
According to the PIL, the petitioners had approached the GPCB when Kathos Tiles began industrial activity at a distance of only 235 metres from their residence. The GPCB team, upon inspection, found the tile manufacturer to be in violation of site criteria and thereafter, in January 2016, issued an order that the industrial activity be stopped. However, the GPCB’s instructions were ignored and it did not pursue the matter subsequently. The petitioners therefore approached the court asking for directions to the GPCB “to take steps in accordance with law to implement its order, and (also for a) direction for stopping of construction of the disputed ceramic industry (factory) on the disputed site.”