In an order issued on Monday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) noted that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has not taken action against violators committing offences under environmental statutes included under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
The order issued by the NGT’s Principal Bench headed by chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel observed, “Since competent authority has never resorted to proceed against violators of environmental statutes despite committing offences thereunder, which are included in Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002, this inaction has encouraged polluters to continue violation with impunity.”
The NGT’s order came in the matter of a chemical factory in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, which was imposed environmental compensation for contaminating groundwater and soil by dumping industrial waste containing chromium.
The NGT observed that in this case where environmental norms were not followed, “revenue earned by committing such crime is proceeds of crime as defined under PMLA, 2002. The entire activity is covered under Section 3 of PMLA, 2002.”
The tribunal noted that the PMLA was initially enacted to cover “activities of terrorists, illegal trafficking in narcotics, enemies of the country etc., applying to a very limited number of statutes, Enforcement Directorate has been taking action under PMLA, 2002, in a narrow sphere. It has forgotten to take note of the fact that scope of PMLA, 2002, has been enhanced or widened a lot after the amendment Act of 2012.” The tribunal observed that though more than nine-and-a-half years have passed after the scope of the Act has been broadened, the Enforcement Directorate has not taken a single action against violators committing offences under environmental statutes which have been included in the Schedule, part A of PMLA 2002.
The order added: “It is incumbent upon the competent authorities regulating and enforcing PMLA 2002 to take action against such violators, if not against small violators, at least against substantial resourceful bigger proponents whose violations are liable to cause huge damage to the environment as also the inhabitants.”
The NGT stated that at least matters of large-scale industries and medium-scale industries should have been examined by the “competent authority” under provisions of PMLA 2002. “Our endeavour was to highlight the inapt attitude and apathy towards enforcement of laws enacted to give teeth to environmental laws but responsible authorities find it convenient to put these laws in hibernation,” the tribunal held.
The chemical factory is also liable for action under PMLA, 2002, the order stated.
The factory has been ordered to pay Rs 23.09 crore as environmental compensation within three months.
The NGT made similar observations in the matter of another chemical factory in Kanpur that was asked to pay environmental compensation for unscientific handling of hazardous waste comprising chromium.