Boosting efforts to protect the Ulhas river, the Supreme Court (SC) has stayed all orders passed by the Bombay high court (HC) on the river that were contrary to the directions passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
While issuing notices to various government agencies and municipal corporations responsible to keep the river free of pollution, a division bench of justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and justice Amitava Roy stated, “In the meantime, the operation of the impugned order shall remain stayed”.
In 2013, NGO Vanashakti filed a petition with the NGT to direct the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to shut all polluting industries discharging untreated effluents into the Ulhas river in violation of environment rules. “With the state and the country rapidly moving towards a water crisis, it is imperative that we do everything to protect our remaining rivers,” said Stalin D, the petitioner.
The special leave petition (SLP) filed by Vanashakti with the SC, challenging the decision of HC to admit the petition stated, “The directions given by the NGT have been virtually brushed aside (by the HC) without consideration. No reference is made to all reports filed before the NGT, which forms the basis of the NGT order….. The impugned order of the High Court completely undermines the order of the NGT without saying in what manner the NGT order was wrong.”
It was in a significant order last July that the tribunal’s western bench invoking the principle of ‘polluter pays’ directed various government agencies to cough up Rs95 crore to restore and compensate for polluting the Ulhas river. In addition, the NGT had also constituted a committee headed by the divisional commissioner to submit an action plan including preventive, remedial and restoration measures for the river.
Following this, the government agencies moved the HC, which stayed the tribunal’s order of depositing the said amount, and constituted another committee above the one formed by the tribunal. Vanashakti then filed the SLP.