Looking at the "startling figures" presented by the Haryana government that more than 100 applications seeking permission for stone crushing operations were pending for the past two years, the Punjab and Haryana high court has summoned environment additional chief secretary PK Gupta for explanation.
The division bench, comprising acting chief justice Jasbir Singh and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Harish Kumar, highlighting illegal stone crushers operating against the rules and without permission, on Monday said the state agencies were "sleeping" and need to "wake up from their slumber".
According to rules, the authorities have to decide on the application within four months of its receipt. Otherwise, as per the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, it is understood that the stone crusher units have deemed permission and can operate.
The bench observed that more than the illegal stone crusher units, it was the authorities that were to be blamed.
According to the data presented before the court, the government authorities received a total of 51 applications, seeking permission for operation of stone crusher units in 2010 and 52 in 2011, and the decision on these was still pending.
The environment department said the applications were pending as there was paucity of staff, and a lack of complete documents by applicants.
Not satisfied with this, the bench directed Gupta to explain on the next date of hearing as to how many applications were received and on which dates, how many were decided and when, how many were pending and by what date would they be decided.
Observing that a similar situation might prevail in Punjab, the bench directed the chairman of the Punjab Pollution Control Board to file a reply on the directions issued in Haryana's case.
The bench adjourned the case to September 12.