Updated: August 14, 2021 9:00:45 pm
IN A relief to Municipal Commissioner I S Chahal, who was summoned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in a case on sea pollution, the Supreme Court on Friday said the commissioner need not be present in person before the tribunal.
The apex court added that since corporation and officials are engaged in controlling the pandemic, they should be given reasonable time to file compliance. The SC also asked the NGT not to initiate coercive action against the commissioner.
However, the SC refused to stay the NGT proceedings in the matter of discharge of untreated sewage in sea and water bodies. On July 16, during the hearing of the sea pollution case, taking note of delays in implementation of the sewage disposal plan in Mumbai, the NGT had directed Chahal to appear before the tribunal in person. It had also asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) why coercive action should not be taken against corporation for non-compliance of the tribunal’s order.
Following this, the BMC moved the SC, seeking relief against the NGT order. On Friday, the apex court directed the BMC and the municipal commissioner to submit an affidavit, indicating steps to be taken by the corporation to comply with the tribunal orders within a fortnight on sewage treatment.
“The municipal corporation and the municipal commissioner must respond to the notice, which has been issued by the NGT. At the same time, recourse to coercive steps against the municipal commissioner is not appropriate, particularly when the official is engaged in a herculean effort to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic for protecting the residents of the metropolis. Reasonable time should be given to MCGM and the municipal commissioner to apprise the tribunal of the steps taken,” read the SC order.
The SC, however, raised concerns on sea pollution, calling it a “very serious issue” and directed the BMC to comply with the NGT orders on upgradation of sewage treatment facilities.
“The municipal corporation must, in our view, make every effort to comply with the directions of the NGT by setting up the required facilities and upgrading existing facilities,” the order stated.
The NGT order to the BMC came after NGO Vanshakti had moved an execution application, seeking directions to implement the tribunal’s judgment.
“The BMC’s attempt to get a stay order on the NGT proceedings failed. The SC allowed the execution application to proceed and the municipal commissioner himself will have to satisfy the NGT that the MCGM is complying with the tribunal order,” said Stalin D, director of NGO Vanashakti.
Sea, creeks and water bodies in Mumbai are facing serious water pollution due to discharge of untreated sewage and waste. The BMC has proposed to upgrade and construct seven treatment plants across the city under the Mumbai Sewage Disposal Project (MSDP-II). However, even after 15 years since it was planned, there have not been any significant changes. Last year, the civic body was fined Rs 34 crore for polluting the sea and creeks.
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