The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the lax approach of “many” states in taking adequate steps to prepare for disasters, even ten years after a law has been put in place, the Supreme Court observed today. It also asked the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to remain ever-vigilant and be ready to deal with natural disasters.
“It is unfortunate that more than ten years after the passage of the (Disaster Management) Act by Parliament, many of the States have not taken adequate steps to ensure that the requirements under the Act were complied with and disaster management plan formulated,” a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said in its judgement.
“All we need to say is that it is absolutely necessary for the NDMA constituted at the national level and the State Disaster Management Authority at the state level to be ever vigilant and ensure that if any unfortunate disaster strikes, there should be total preparedness and that minimum standards of relief are provided to all concerned,” the bench said. Disposing of a PIL of advocate Gaurav Bansal who had sought implementation of the provisions of the DM Act, the bench asked the NDMA to publish annual reports and update plans regularly, besides directing it to make its website multi-lingual.
The court took note of the submission made by the NDMA counsel that all states, except Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, have prepared a State Disaster Management Plan and said that the steps taken by the NDMA have been sufficient in compliance with the provisions of the Act. On April 27, the apex court had pulled up the Centre for failing to make the states constitute advisory committees on disaster management preparedness.
Under Section 17 of the Disaster Management Act (DMA), “a state authority may, as and when it considers necessary, constitute an advisory committee, consisting of experts in the field of disaster management and having practical experience of disaster management to make recommendations on different aspects of disaster management”. The apex court had earlier directed the chief secretaries of states to frame and comply with guidelines under the DMA on the issue of minimum standard of relief to affected persons.
Referring to provisions of the Act, Bansal in his plea had said that they cast a duty on the Centre to draw a national plan for disaster management and provide minimum standards of relief to those affected by the disaster. The apex court had earlier issued notices to Uttarakhand and six other states Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat on the PIL that had alleged that they failed in implementing Disaster Management Act in order to handle natural catastrophe.
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