Tuesday, September 28, 2021

HC orders Morbi ceramic units to deposit 25% of penalty

The Gujarat high court on Tuesday asked nearly 600 ceramic units in Morbi-Wankaner cluster to deposit 25% of penalty amount with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board. The HC said that all the units were responsible for causing environment damage and liable to pay but permitted the units to make full payments after the authorities complete their damage assessment and fix final liability on each of the units. 
GPCB had ordered all ceramic units in this cluster to pay fine of Rs 5,000 per day since their establishment for causing environmental damage by using coal gasifiers. The interim compensation imposed on these units comes to around Rs 500 crore. The authorities are yet to determine final compensation. 
After demand for interim compensation, more than 500 units approached the HC, complaining that they were not given an opportunity to defend themselves. After hearing the petitions, the bench of Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice V D Nanavati refused to buy the argument that the units were not granted an opportunity of hearing before determining the interim environment damage compensation. The HC said, “We are of the view that the writ applicants (ceramic units) are liable to pay the interim environment damage compensation.” It said that the final payment would be subject to the final damage assessment report by three institutes — National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) and Advanced Materials and Processes Research Institute (AMPRI). The HC has requested these institutes to speed up their study. 
The court said that by the time the study is completed and appropriate report is filed, the units should deposit 25% of the amount stipulated in the notices issued by GPCB. 
Last November, the HC had stayed the authorities from taking coercive steps for recovery of compensation for their continuing to use coal gasifiers despite a strict no by the National Green Tribunal and the Gujarat high court. The GPCB had cited a report by a committee set up by the NGT, which held the ceramic units responsible for violation of pollution norms and recommended penalty of Rs 5,000 per day since the day GPCB gave consent for establishment to that particular unit.

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