Supreme Court urges States/UTs to take steps on solid waste management.

On 1st November 2017, after going through the contents of the  affidavit filed on behalf ofthe Directorate General of Health Services, vide its order (Order 01-Nov-2017) ,the Hon’ble Apex Court observed that various vector borne diseases are widespread in different parts of the country apparently due to an absence of solid waste management. Therefore, it appeared to the court that the crucial issue was the management of solid waste.

Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 have been enforceable with effect from 8th April, 2016.

Rule 5 of the aforesaid Rules places the responsibility of overall monitoring and implementation of these Rules in the country on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. Rule 5 also provides for the constitution of a Central Monitoring Committee under the Chairmanship of the Secretary of the said Ministry comprising officers not below the rank of the Joint Secretary or Advisor from several Ministries and bodies. The Central Monitoring Committee is expected to meet at least once in a year to monitor and review the implementation of these Rules and to co-opt other experts. Since the Rules came into force with effect from 8th April, 2016, presumably, at least one meeting of the Central Monitoring Committee has been held.

Rules 6,7,8,9 and 10 indicate the duties of several Ministries of the Government of India and Rule 14 relates to the duties of the Central Pollution Control Board.

The Hon’ble Suprene Court by its aforementioned order required the Union of India through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to file an affidavit within four weeks with regard to the implementation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. It was expected by the Hon’ble Apex Court from the said Ministry that it shall file a composite affidavit on behalf of the Union of India.

Additionally a notice was also issued to the Central Pollution Control Board to indicate what steps have been taken by it for solid waste management in terms of the Rules and even otherwise.

During further proceedings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it observed that:

The CPCB had issued directions on 7th September, 2017 under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for constitution of the“State Level Advisory Body” (SLAB). It was stated in the communication that only 15 States and Union Territories had responded and in some of those States not even one meeting had been held of the SLAB. The Apex Court stated that It was quite clear from the above that there was no seriousness attached to the management of solid waste to the extent that even the SLAB had not been set up and in some cases where the Body had been set up it had not even met once in six months. The Hon’ble Court went on to state that the Rules came into force on 8th April, 2016 and more than one and half years had gone by. It was further stated by the court that there was absolutely no shortage of funds, but there was only absence of any initiative or lack of any willingness to take any positive steps for solid waste management because Government of India had launched a Swachh Bharat Mission for which there was a total outlay of Rs.36,829 crore out of which Rs.7,424 crores have been made available by the Central Government. Thus the Hon’ble Court observed that it was time that some of these issues were looked at with all due concern and seriousness by the StateGovernments, particularly in the context of the Swachh Bharat Mission.Ergo, The Supreme Court direct the MOEF to follow up the matter with the State Governments in terms of their order and made it clear to the State Governments that in case they do not provide full, correct and accurate information to the MOEF, they were likely to be burdened with very heavy costs.

The Union of India filed a compilation of information pursuant to the order of the court which indicated that it had received a communication from 28 out of 36 State Governments and Union Territories. It was stated that the State Level Advisory Boards (SLABs) had been constituted in 27 out of 36 States and Union Territories as per information received by the Central Pollution Control Board. However, as per Rule 23 of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 only in 20 out of 36 States and Union Territories SLABs had been constituted. The meetings of the SLABs had been held only by 17 State Governments and Union Territories. Out of this, only three State Governments and Union Territories had held two meetings. The NCT of Delhi had held six meetings. All other State Governments and Union Territories had either held one meeting or not held any meeting at all. The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that State Governments and the Union Territories were not taking hardly any interest in Solid Waste Management.The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that issue of waste management is a national issue and from the chart given to the Hon’ble Court by learned Additional Solicitor General it appeared that the State Governments and the Union Territories did not take the issue seriously. Consequently, The Supreme Court issued notice to all State Governments and Union Territories.

In respect of the above intimation there was absolutely no appearance on behalf of the State Governments of Haryana, Jharkhand, Manipur and Meghalaya.Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the States of Assam and Nagaland said that they had not received any instructions in that regard. In so far as the State of Bihar was concerned, it was informed by the learned counsel that the State Legal Advisory Board had already been constituted.Since there was no response nor any appearance on behalf of the States of Haryana, Jharkhand, Manipur and Meghalaya, the Hon’ble Supreme Court issued a direction to the Secretary, Urban Development Department of these States to be present in Court on the next date of hearing i.e. 24th April, 2018 to inform as to what steps had been taken for implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.

The States of Haryana and Jharkhand filed their affidavits but no affidavit had been filed by the States of Manipur and Meghalaya as on 24.04.2018. It was directed that by 10th July, 2018 i.e. the next date of hearing, a policy shall prepared by these States as well as by all other States in terms of Rule 11 and Rule 15 of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.

Pursuant to orders passed by the Supreme Court from time to time, affidavits were filed by the States of Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Nagaland and Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Andaman and Nicobar Island.As on 10.07.2018 There was no compliance by the remaining States / UTs. Apart from non-compliance with the orders passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF), Government of India had issued several reminders to the States / UTs including as late as in April, 2018 requiring the States / UTs to comply with the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Rules as well as the directions given by this Court. The tragedy was that more than two-third of the States / UTs in the country hadneither bothered to comply with the orders passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court nor bothered to comply with the directions given by the MoEF, Government of India.Since the States / UTs had not complied with the orders passed by this Court and the directions issued by the Government of India, costs of Rs.1,00,000/- (Rupees One lac only) was imposed on the States / UTs which did not comply. The costs were directed to be deposited within a period of two weeks with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee for utilization of juvenile justice issues. The remaining defaulting States / UTs that were not present or were not represented by lawyers were burdened with costs of Rs. 2,00,000/- (Rupees two lacs only). The costs were directed to be paid within a period of two weeks with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee for utilization of juvenile justice issues.

As on 31.08.2018, States of Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh had deposited the costs.

As far as the following states are concerned as on 31.08.2018

Andhra Pradesh: The affidavit in terms of the order dated 10th July, 2018 had not been filed. The Union of India was not aware whether the State Policy has been framed by the State of Andhra Pradesh since the affidavit has not been filed. In any event, no one was present on behalf of the State of Andhra Pradesh to assist the Hon’ble Supreme Court. However, an appearance slip had been given on behalf of the advocate who was not present. Costs of Rs.5,00,000/- (Rupees five lakhs only)was imposed on the State of Andhra Pradesh which was directed to be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within two weeks for utilization of juvenile justice issues.

U.T. of Chandigarh: The Union Territory of Chandigarh had not framed its State Policy. Even there was no appearance on behalf of the Union Territory of Chandigarh. However, an appearance slip had been given on behalf of the advocate who was not present. Costs of Rs.3,00,000/- (Rupees three lakhs only)was imposed on the Union Territory of Chandigarh which was directed to be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within two weeks for utilization of juvenile justice issues.

Kerala: As prayed for, two weeks’ time was granted to the State of Kerala for filing the affidavit.

Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttarakhand:Costs of Rs.3,00,000/- (Rupees three lakhs only) eachwas imposed on the States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand for not framing the State Policy/not complying with the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The amount was directed to be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within two weeks for utilization of juvenile justice issues.

The Hon’ble Apex Court expressed that it was unfortunate that some States and Union Territories had not yet framed any Policy under the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and such attitude of the States/Union Territories in not yet framing a Policy even after two years was pathetic, to say the least.

Furthermore, The Hon’ble Court ordered that further constructions in the abovementioned States/Union Territories are stayed until the Policy is framed.

 The matter has now been listed on 9thOctober, 2018.

However, an application (I.A. No.126596/2018) on behalf of State of Uttarakhand for recall of order dated 31.8.2018 was allowed on 5thSeptember, 2018 (Copy of order: Order 05-Sep-2018)

-Tushar Kaushik

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