In an important judgment, a Full Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday allowed authorities concerned to set up Micro Bio-disposable Units (Compost Centres) in a portion of parks or playgrounds.
A specially constituted bench of Justices R Mahadevan, V Parthiban and P T Asha gave the ruling, while answering the important issue referred to it by the first bench, headed by the Chief Justice.
The ruling was subject to certain conditions with regard to the maintenance of the compost yards.
Originally, some residents of Thiru.Vi.Ka. Nagar, Vadavalli in Coimbatore approached the High Court with a writ petition questioning the decision of the Coimbatore Corporation to construct a compost yard in the place earmarked for park/children’s play area. And a single judge in August, 2019 dismissed the petition. Hence, the present writ appeal.
When the matter came up on February 7, 2020, the first bench found that there were conflicting and divergent views expressed by various division benches of the court on the issue and referred the matter before the present full bench for an authoritative pronouncement in the matter as the uniform dispensation of justice is the hallmark of the justice delivery system.
Accordingly the present full bench heard the matter and observed that the location of the compost yards in parks or playgrounds cannot be construed as ‘development’ in terms of the scheme of the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act, 1971 or the Combined Development Rules, 2019, and therefore, any prohibition contemplated in the statutory rules and regulations does not apply to the implementation of the concept of solid waste management as envisaged in the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules, 2016.
The SWM Rules framed under the Central enactment, viz., the Environment [Protection] Act, 1986, would prevail over the State laws to the extent of the implementation of the policies outlined towards solid waste management. Even otherwise, this Court does not see any palpable repugnancy between the SWM Rules and the State laws, the judges said, adding that in the exact words of reference, implementation of SWM Rules fall within the permissible deviation, in larger public interest even in terms of the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act, 1971, read with the Development Control Rules framed thereunder.
For the upkeep and maintenance of the compost yards and to monitor the implementation of the SWM Rules, the bench directed the State government to constitute advisory committees at the State, district, municipal and panchayat levels. Apart from the chosen officials, the committees may include a member from the neighbourhood wherever such MCCs or the compost yards are to be located.
The committees should be empowered to intervene and take immediate remedial action, if any issue relating to improper upkeep and poor maintenance of MCCs or the yards are raised.
The officials in-charge of MCCs and compost yards shall ensure that the disposal facility does not fall into disuse, resulting in the place becoming a dumping yard of garbage, leading to the degradation of the entire open space toxically detrimental to the citizens’ enjoyment of a clean environment.
If any negligence of officials towards proper upkeep and maintenance are found, stern disciplinary action should be initiated promptly against them and if the negligence is proved, appropriate punishment be imposed on them, the bench said and directed the government to issue a comprehensive circular incorporating all necessary guidelines for the State/district/panchayat committees in implementation of the various facets of the SWM Rules, 2016, to ensure that the guidelines are strictly followed and implemented.