Summon polluters to court, make them pay, proposes NGT committee
How do you make a polluter pay? Till date, government agencies in Delhi had little luck with that and have been able to recover only 30% of the total fines imposed on those who pollute water, which adversely affects the river Yamuna and the groundwater of the city.
So, in a bid to recover the pending environment compensation (EC) from defaulters, a two-member committee, appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), has proposed that defaulters be summoned by the green court and made to pay the fine there.
The committee members Shailaja Chandra and BS Sajwan, a former expert member of the NGT, said such steps have been taken before in a pollution related case.
“In cases where the EC cannot be realised, a list of all such defaulters with addresses may be filed before the NGT, so that they can be summoned and made to pay on the spot,” the committee proposed in its second interim report to the NGT.
The committee also stated that government agencies had imposed a fine of ₹7.33 crore, between February and April 2019. But only ₹2.22 crore has been recovered till date, which is about 30% of the total EC imposed.
“There is no protocol to follow in case the polluter fails to pay the compensation amount. None of the enforcement agencies has any system or a standard operation procedure to ensure that the penalty is recovered,” a senior official of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) said.
Experts have welcomed the committee’s proposal, but said the suggestion may not be sustainable in the long term.
Vardhaman Kaushik, an advocate, said, “It is a welcome proposal. Even though it had happened in a plea that I had filed on pollution, the model may not be sustainable in the long term and for every case. There has to be a special cell or a court-appointed registrar or commissioner specifically for recovery.”
The committee’s report also said when agencies in Delhi were asked to act on defaulters, they started issuing notices and imposing penalties against one another. For example, the irrigation and flood control department had issued 25 show cause notices for levying EC from the public works department, north and south municipal corporations, and the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC).
“The process of recovery involves the participation of various agencies, including the police and revenue officials. There is a lot of resistance when officials go to recover the amount or act against defaulters. There should be a special task force for this purpose,” a former MD of the DSIIDC said.