Note:One hopes even Supreme Court bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia will adopt the wisdom of the Madras High Court with regard to Waste Oil, Obsolete ships and other hazardous wastes. The next date of hearing is on January 9, 2009.
A hazardous wastes case is pending in the apex court since 1995. But in the absence of sound approach like asking the Central Government to initiate civil and criminal proceedings against officials who mastermind illegal and anti-national deals, imposing cost of waste clearance on importers and slapping litigation cost; illegal traffic in toxic waste has become a routine affair in our country.
A Supreme Court order had banned import of hazardous waste. Officials of easy virtue in the Environment Ministry have acted to undermine the order with impunity at the behest of hazardous waste traders. The situation has worsened after the order.
Shockingly, there are numerous instances in the ongoing case in the Supreme Court where importers were reported non-existent and toxic ships enter Indian waters with fake national flags!
Our hazardous wastes regulation is one of the most weakest in the world and even the new that Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 is a disappointment. Rajya Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation has invited comments on it. Hopefully, the Committee will take cognisance of Madras High Court's order and get the current rules and institutions overhauled and brings Union Ministry of Environment and Forests under parliamentary control because this Ministry's acts of connivance is too grave to be ignored. Even Commerce Ministry's role does not bring it any glory. It is germane to recollect that Japan and India have signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement that may facilitate dumping of Japanese toxic wastes in our country.
Given the fact that our municipal waste remains quite toxic and household hazardous waste has been totally ignored, the parliamentary committee must treat mixed municipal waste too as having characteristics of hazardous waste. It appears that Madras High Court order of November 21, 2008 has done the same.
Madras HC orders to return containers imported from United States
The Madras High Court ordered to send back the 40 containers of hazardous municipal waste imported from the United States and rotting at Tuticorin Port for three years.
While dismissing a writ petition by ITC, the division bench comprising Justice Elipipe Dharmarao and Justice S Tamilvanan said, ‘The cargo is municipal waste shipped to India, which cannot be sold or allowed to be disposed of in any manner in India, since it will cause danger to Mother Nature, as has been correctly observed by the Customs Department and Pollution Control Board.’ The bench also rapped ITC Limited for importing the ‘undesired cargo’. The Judges directed the company to
clear out the waste at its own cost and slapped a litigation cost of Rs 50,000. Judges also asked the Centre to initiate civil and criminal proceedings against officials who masterminded such illegal ideas within a period of 12 weeks.
ITC sourced the material from US-based Evergreen Specialities, which was meant to supply mixed wastepaper in August 2005. But on examination, the Customs found that consignment contained plastic carry bags, pet bottles, used clothes, metal cans and dirty liquid emitting foul smell.
Officials said hazardous municipal waste had characteristics of Eco-toxic and infectious substances.
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