The National Green Tribunal has slammed the civic authorities in Rajsthan’s Bikaner over a report on a sewage treatment plant, saying a plea of budget cannot be taken to justify the continued violation of the Water Act and the citizens’ right to a clean environment.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the officer who has filed the affidavit does not have the requisite knowledge of law and responsibilities of the state pollution control board.
“In view of the binding judgment of the Supreme Court, the plea of budget cannot be taken to justify the continued violation of the Water Act and the citizens’ right to clean environment.
“In absence of any other source of funds, funds are to be raised from the citizens in the area as directed by the Supreme Court, and for failure concerned erring officers are to be proceeded against,” the bench said.
The executive officer of the municipal board in Nokha had told the tribunal that the existing Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) could not be repaired and operated due to non-availability of sufficient budget.
The NGT gave one last opportunity for compliance, failing which the secretary of the departments concerned i.e. local bodies/urban development/local self department and the member secretary of the state PCB will be held personally accountable, by way of coercive measures laid down under sections 25 and 26 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (NGT Act).
“Under section 26 of the NGT Act, violation of order of this tribunal is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years and fine up to Rs 10 crores. Under section 25 of the NGT Act, 2010, the order is executable at the decree of the civil court.
“Under section 51 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, there is provision for civil imprisonment or any other order. Any other order can include stopping of salary of the erring officers. The tribunal will accordingly take such coercive measures as found appropriate, if the failure continued,” the bench said.
The NGT directed the member secretary of the state PCB and the secretary of the department concerned to be present in person by video conferencing with a compliance status on September 21. The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Rajasthan resident Bhanwar Lal Bhargava over discharge of untreated sewage and industrial effluent on agriculture land in Bikaner’s Nokha village.