The Supreme Court transferred a 32-year-old PIL on cleaning the Ganga river to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), saying the quasi-judicial body was already hearing the case partially since 2014.
A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar said since NGT was dealing with the issue related to municipal solid waste and industrial waste on a daily basis, the concern regarding domestic sewage and other sources of pollution should be heard by it.
The green court will submit an interim report to it every six months, only to inform it about the progress made and difficulties faced, if any. Advocate MC Mehta, who approached the top court in 1985 highlighting the rising pollution in Ganga, was given the liberty to approach the top court if he had any grievances.
Before the court gave its order, Mehta raised concerns over the hearing being carried out at the NGT, saying there was no compliance mechanism. However, the bench told him the law under which NGT worked provided for penalty and other penal provisions in case of non-compliance of the tribunal’s orders.
On October 29, 2014, the top court asked the NGT to enforce the statute touching environment and its preservation arising out of discharge of industrial effluents into Ganga. SC had said it was not possible for it to continue monitoring the implementation of its verdict and had devoted over 30 years to the case. It had, however, agreed to examine the progress made in setting up sewage treatment plants for domestic waste.
Mehta had approached the top court with an aim to restrain polluting industries that had mushroomed on the banks of the river.
On September 9, 1985, the apex court issued notices to all industries situated in urban areas and ordered them to stop discharging effluents without treating them properly in accordance with the standards prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
In its first major order on September 22, 1987, the SC ordered closure of 20 tanneries located along the Ganga. The directions were reiterated on January 12, 1988, and the top court ordered the municipalities concerned to set up sewage treatment plants (STPs) to ensure that untreated domestic sewage does not enter the river.