The Supreme Court today rapped the West Bengal government for not filing a reply to a PIL on release of untreated effluents by industries and other entities into rivers across the country and asked its environment secretary to appear before it on February 22. “Why should we waste time with you (lawyer for the state). Your environment secretary will be before us on day after tomorrow.
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“Every other state has filed its reply and you choose not to file it. Ask your (environment) secretary to remain present,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said when the counsel for the state government sought two weeks more time to file the counter affidavit in the case.
The apex court had earlier issued notice to the Centre, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Chief Secretaries of 19 states, including Gujarat, on the plea filed by NGO Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti on the issue of pollution in water bodies, including ground water.
Initially, the plea was restricted to Gujarat and later its scope was widened by the apex court which had granted last opportunity to states on January 16 to file their response.
At the outset, the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said that it would pass an order on February 22 on the issues including stoppage of industrial activity till effluent treatment plants are set up by the industries and inquired from CPCB about the possible time taken in establishing the sewage treatment plants (STPs).
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO, said that there has been rise of 300 to 400 per cent in release of untreated liquid wastes in rivers across the country.
“We may forthwith stop the release of industrial effluents and will allow them to release after they set up the sewage treatment plants. One way is to stop the polluting industries,” the court said.
When the counsel for parties tried to elaborate upon the processes involved in the sewage treatment, it said, “You keep saying. We keep listening. But nothing is happening.
“Is this the Supreme Court or a joke court,” an incensed apex court bench had observed on January 16 when it found out from records that several state governments had not filed their reply to the PIL.
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