BY:- Priyanka Bararia
In the Supreme Court of India
Writ Petition (c) No. 888 of 1996
|NAME OF THE CASE||Almitra H. Patel & Ors vs. Union of India & Ors|
|EQUIVALENT CITATION||2000(2) SCC 166; AIR 2000 SC 1726; 2000 (3) SCC 575; 2000 (1) SCALE 261|
|DATE OF THE CASE||15th February, 1996|
|PETITIONER(S)||Almitra H. Patel & Ors|
|RESPONDENT(S)||Union of India & Ors|
|BENCH/ JUDGE||B.N. Kirpal, M. B. Shah, D. P. Mohapatra, JJ., J. S. Verma, C. J, V.N. Khare|
|STATUES INVOLVED||The Constitution of India, 1950; The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957; Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994; Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956|
|IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ ARTICLES||The Constitution of India- Article 21, The code of Criminal Procedure- section 18, section 20 and section 21, Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956- section 3, section 4, section 10.|
The world is dealing with a pollution problem that will have a global impact. Due to industrialization, urbanization, and globalization, waste management of solid and liquid wastes, as well as ever-increasing air pollution, all three of these issues arise. It is necessary to have a broad approach to growing urbanization as a social, as well as a waste management framework. This includes aspects such as social, economic, technological, political, and administrative aspects.
For example, waste minimization is part of the social dimension of waste management; waste recycling is part of the economic dimension; waste disposal is part of the technology dimension; and the political and administrative dimensions are spread across all three issues of minimization, recycling, and disposal. Through a case study of the Almitra H. Patel Union of India, a landmark case in environmental protection, this study demonstrates the importance of waste management. It’s a startling reality that none of the industries that recycle hazardous waste possessed a facility for safe, environmentally sound trash disposal.
The majority of environmental cases are handled through PILs (Public Interest Litigation), and Almitra H. Patel also filed a PIL in this instance. PIL has raised awareness about the scope of the problem and how it might quickly escalate if not addressed. The purpose of this case study is to demonstrate how garbage can be detrimental to humans if suitable disposal precautions are not performed. Waste management is a problem that primarily affects urbanized communities and begins with family activities. The Indian courts, both the Supreme and the High Courts, have given the chapter on basic rights in the Constitution in general, and Article 21 in particular, new dimensions.
The case of Almitra Patel demonstrates that in a country where statutory bodies approach their tasks with hesitation and complacency, people and courts play an increasingly important role. Non-disposal and inappropriate disposal of garbage pose a serious threat to the health and environment of metropolitan areas, and processes must be implemented to ensure that garbage does not become an insurmountable problem. The onus is ultimately on the government to guarantee that this is done, as the court had to emphasise several times in this instance.
Another crucial part of this case is that it highlights how, in India, environmental law and enforcement are primarily reliant on the judiciary and the initiative of citizens who approach the Court, given the apathy of the government.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE:
This present case comprises of a series of a petition made by the petitioner before The Supreme Court and consequent orders. The court’s active participation began with an order on April 21, 1997, requiring representatives from each state to file an affidavit on compliance with existing rules, in the form of the report of the Planning Commission’s High-Power Committee on Urban Solid Waste Management in India and the report of the Central Pollution Control Board on Municipal Waste Management (Sewage and Solid Waste). Following that, instructions on bio-treatment of wastes rather than the use of pesticides were issued, and states were instructed to develop laws for the disposal of Municipal Solid Waste.
When widespread noncompliance was discovered in 1998, the court formed an eight-member commission under the Ministry of Urban Development, led by Asim Barman, which included four of the country’s best city administrators, three central government officials, and the petitioner herself.
The committee’s mandate was to: Examine existing procedures and suggest sanitary processing and waste disposal techniques and proven technologies that corporations/government may directly or indirectly adopt or support, based on economic feasibility and safety: Examine and make recommendations for improving environmental sorting, collection, transportation, disposal, recycling, and reuse conditions in the formal and informal sectors: Review municipal bylaws and local bodies’ and regional planning authorities’ powers, and make recommendations for changes to ensure effective budgeting, finance, administration, monitoring, and compliance etc.
In 1996, Almitra H. Patel filed a writ case challenging the administration of solid waste disposal in four metropolises: Mumbai, Chennai, Calcutta, and Delhi. It also mentioned Bangalore, but the Supreme Court decided to hear the matter of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The petitioner claimed that municipal garbage disposal techniques were inadequate. Municipal solid waste management had a direct impact on people’s health in the country.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
Almitra H. Patel filed this case against the Union of India because of Delhi’s poor standing. The historic city of Delhi, India’s capital, is one of the world’s most polluted cities. The agencies in charge of pollution management and environmental preservation have failed to give residents of Delhi a clean and healthy atmosphere. It is tough to breathe because the air is so dirty. The River Yamuna, which is the city’s main source of drinking water, is also a free dumping ground for untreated sewage and industrial garbage, causing an increase in respiratory ailments and throat infections.
Aside from air and water pollution, the city is essentially a garbage dump. Garbage strewn over Delhi is a typical occurrence. The municipal government of Delhi was not paying enough attention to the problem of hazardous waste management. All of this compelled Almitra H. Patel to file a lawsuit against the Delhi municipal government. Many ailments, including as respiratory and skin disorders, afflicted the Delhi population. All of the trash from the factories were dumped into the Yamuna River, which provided drinking water to Delhi, and these wastes were contaminated since the Delhi municipal administration failed to properly handle them.
- Was Municipal Corporation of Delhi responsible for the disorder in the management of the wastes which affected the people of Delhi?
- Was there lack of safai karamcharis in MCD?
- Was there need for the recommendation of the Committee, and who will be the officers responsible for implementing those recommendations which are accepted?
ARGUMENT BY PETITIONER:
The petitioner mentioned that the agencies in charge of pollution management and environmental preservation have failed to give residents of Delhi with a clean and healthy atmosphere. It is tough to breathe because the air is so dirty. Respiratory infections and throat infections are becoming more common in Delhi. The River Yamuna, which serves as a primary source of drinking water, also serves as a free dumping ground for untreated sewage and industrial trash. Aside from air and water pollution, the city is essentially a garbage dump.
It is really unfortunate that despite more than sufficient time having gone the status of Delhi has not changed. The residents of Delhi progressively suffer from respiratory and other diseases, the river Yamuna is very polluted and garbage and untreated residential and industrial waste is being either freely dumped into the said river or is left on open land, significant volume of which remains ignored.
The legislation, among other things, requires them to carry out their municipal tasks and, at the very least, prohibit trash and garbage from being scattered about in public spaces, endangering public health.
Garbage strewn over Delhi is a typical occurrence. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), established under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 (Delhi Act), has been completely negligent in carrying out its legal obligations. It is undeniably true that rapid industrial development, urbanization, and the regular movement of people from rural to urban areas have all contributed significantly to environmental degradation; however, the authorities tasked with pollution control cannot be allowed to sit back with folded hands on the pretext that they lack the financial or other resources to do so.
ARGUMENT BY RESPONDENT:
It is the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure that disposal sites are available for the sake of public health. The MCD is not engaged in a commercial business when it comes to providing dump sites. It is the responsibility of the MCD, as well as the other bodies listed above, to ensure that sufficient landfill sites are available to meet Delhi’s needs for the next twenty years. It is inexcusable that the MCD is unable to provide the same because of the expensive cost. Landfill sites must be provided, and it makes no difference which government agency or local government is responsible for the cost.
In its affidavit, the respondent asserted that it is working to enhance Delhi’s sanitation and solid waste management. The NDMC is said to be overstaffed, spending 35 percent of its earnings on salaries, allowances, and other expenses, compared to 15 to 20 percent in world cities. It is claimed that the high percentage of absenteeism among safai karamcharis has been decreased from 30% to 15%, with the goal of reducing it to a minimum of 10%. When it is unknown where waste came from, the NDMC has indicated that they should be allowed to challan entire communities such as Residents’ Welfare Association and Market Association as a group.
Despite the directives issued in the Dr. B.L. Wadehras case, the respondents counsel claims that a sufficient number of landfill sites have not been located or handed over to it. One of the reasons for the sites’ non-availability, according to the report, is that land-owning entities such as the DDA and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi need a market value of more than rupees forty lacs per acre before the land can be given to the MCD. It is the responsibility of the government to keep Delhi clean.
The Union of India’s Ministry of Urban Development, the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, the Commissioner of MCD, the Chairman of the NDMC, the Cantonment Board, and the DDA are among the agencies that manage Delhi. It is the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure that disposal sites are available for the sake of public health. The MCD is not engaged in a commercial business when it comes to providing dump sites. It is the responsibility of the MCD, as well as the other bodies listed above, to ensure that sufficient landfill sites are available to meet Delhi’s needs for the next twenty years.
In this case we see how the there was the violation of fundamental right and how the petitioner moved to the apex court with the help of Article 32 of the Indian Constitution which states the “remedies for the enforcement of rights conferred”.
Moreover, Article 21 of the Constitution of India states that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law”. The state and its citizens have to take responsibility for the right to clean the environment because we live in this environment. It gives us shelter, food, water, light, etc. so we keep our environment safe and clean and pollution-free. It also states that no one’s life can be taken away without following a legal procedure. The term “life” was expanded to include the rights of prisoners, a pollution-free environment, safe drinking water, shelter, privacy, and the right to health, among other things. The enlargement of Article 21 prompted public interest groups to petition the High Courts and the Supreme Court for enforcement of the right to a clean and safe environment against polluting industries, irreversible environmental harm, and government inaction or non-action.
Moreover, it was also suggested that under Section 18 of CrPC, “Such Magistrates shall be called Special Metropolitan Magistrates and shall be appointed for such term, not exceeding one year at a time, as the High Court may, by general or special order”. It was also mentioned to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi to appoint Executive Magistrates under Sections 20 and/or 21 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The learned counsel states that it would be more effective if appointment of Municipal Magistrates under Section 18. It was also given that Discipline amongst people in this behalf has to be inculcated and the guilty punished. Appropriate orders in this behalf are proposed to be issued including the appointment of Magistrates under Section 20 and/or Section 21 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Furthermore, Section 3, 4, and 10 of Slum Areas (Improvement and clearance) Act, shows that it is one of the functions of the authority under the Act to take measures for slum improvement.
This has been India’s most significant case involving solid waste. Mrs. Almitra Patel and others have filed a PIL before the Apex Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, in which the Petitioner demanded an immediate and urgent improvement in the current methods for the treatment of Municipal Solid Waste or garbage in India. The Tribunal determined that the situation was massive since over a lakh ton of raw rubbish is discarded every day just outside the city limits, and there is no suitable treatment for this rubbish, which is deposited on land, along highways, and in lakes.
The Tribunal emphasized the need of converting this waste into a source of electricity and fuel that can be used for the benefit of society, in accordance with the Circular Economy Principles. The tribunal identified it as one of India’s significant challenges in recent years, since lakhs of tons of waste being thrown outside of cities on the periphery without being properly treated. The tribunal emphasized the need of resolving this issue and turning it into a source of power for the benefit of society. The tribunal issued over 25 directives after hearing the case.
The tribunal ordered all states and UTs to rigorously adhere to and implement the 2016 Solid Waste Management Rules. Following the lawsuit, an outright ban on open waste burning on public grounds was enacted. In waste to energy plants, absolute segregation is required, and landfills should only be utilized for storing inert waste and must be bio-stabilized within six months. The Tribunal’s most crucial directive was a complete ban on open burning of rubbish on public grounds, including landfills.
In the present case the main point discussed was WASTES IN AN ILLEGAL AMOUNT. The Court ruled that the lack of open space and public parks in today’s world, when urbanization is on the rise, rural migration is widespread, and congested places are rapidly emerging, may pose a health risk. To claim that social welfare was improved by converting a low-lying park into a private nursing facility was to ignore the true nature of the two and their utility. It’s difficult to estimate how much rubbish has entered our country illegally and clandestinely.
The amount of hazardous waste that has entered our nation despite the ban imposed by the courts plainly demonstrates that there is something fundamentally wrong with the law in terms of hazardous waste regulation and control, and that current regulations are not being implemented. As previously stated, the implementing authorities in this case were completely uninformed of the hazardous waste being transported into the country, let alone its proper management and disposal in an environmentally sound manner.
The Supreme Court has enlarged the “public trust doctrine,” ruling that the state is the trustee of natural resources that are intended for public use and enjoyment by their very nature. The state is also the trustee and has a legal obligation to safeguard natural resources. Anyone who disrupts the natural equilibrium of the environment and thereby harms the ecology must be held accountable and punished.
The concerned authorities should take immediate action if there is a hazard to the environment. Information about the specifics of each industry, the dangers waste that they receive, recycling, and waste that is dumped in disposal sites should be sent to the interested NGOs.
This case gave all the citizens the wide idea of the responsibility of the occupier for handling the waste. Which are:
(1) The occupier generating hazardous wastes listed in column of the Schedule in quantities equal to or exceeding the limits given in column of the said Schedule, shall take all practical steps to ensure that such wastes are properly handled and disposed of without any adverse effects which may result from such wastes and the occupier shall also be responsible for proper collection, reception, treatment, storage and disposal of these wastes either himself or through the operator of a facility.
(2) The occupier or any other person acting on his behalf who intends to get his hazardous waste treated by the operator of a facility under sub-rule (1), shall give to the operator of a facility, such information as may be specified by the State Pollution Control Board.
This case also helped in discussing the requirement of the Legal Framework/ guidelines for the Landfill Management. Even while the Supreme Court stated that landfills are not a permanent answer for solid waste disposal and suggested compost plants as an alternative, it recognized that for the next twenty years, land filling will be the standard practise for solid waste disposal.
In addition, the present case has demonstrated a wide range of repercussions, including labour law conflicts and a dispute between two statutory entities. To formulate the principles, the Supreme Court had to rely on general provisions of the Indian Constitution, such as Fundamental Rights and State Policy Directive Principles, as well as equally general provisions in Municipality Legislations, such as the construction, maintenance, and cleaning of drains and drainage works, as well as public latrines, urinals, and similar conveniences.
The main Idea of this case was for the management and hazardous waste which was harming citizens, their right to live in healthy environment and safely.
This case shows us how healthy and clean environment is important for a human being. On the court’s order, this case was a leading case for the management and handling of hazardous wastes. Following this case, the court took harsh measures against those who were responsible for irresponsibility in the Delhi Municipal Corporation. Following this case, the regulation was enacted as a stringent work for municipal corporations of metropolitan cities, which aided the residents of urban cities much.
The handling of hazardous materials has improved as a result of this case. The executives of the corporation must submit the report as soon as possible, and if they do not, stern action will be taken against them, according to the order of the case. I appreciate Almitra H. Patel’s willingness to lend his expertise in this issue for the public good. The importance of a legal framework was realized as a result of her effort.
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- The Constitution of India, 1950