In Supreme Court of India
Special Leave Petition (C) NOs.28116-28123 OF 2010
Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. Etc.
Union of India & ors.
Date of Judgement
13 Feb. 1996
Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice A.K. Patnaik
1. In this case the appellant- company applied for No objection certificate and obtained ‘No Objection Certificate’ dated 01.08.1994 from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for establishing copper smelter plant in the village named Melavittan in Tuticorin. On 16.01.1995, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, issued environmental clearance for the establishment of plant to the appellant subject to terms and condition they have to follow.
2. Respectively, on 22.05.1995, the TNPCB granted its consent under Section 21 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and under Section 25 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 to the appellants who applied for the establishment of plant to establish in SIPCOT Industrial Complex, Melavittan village, Tuticorin Taluk.
3. That clearance issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India by the TNPCB were challenged before the Madras High Court in W.P. Nos.15501, 15502 and 15503 of 1996 by the National Trust for Clean Environment.
4. While the pendency of writ petitions the appellants establishes up the plant and started production processesA Writ Petition No.5769 of 1997 was afterwards filed by V. Gopalsamy, General Secretary, MDMK Political Party, Thayagam alleging for inter alia a direction to the appellants to stop the operation of the plant.
5. Then Writ Petition No. 16861 of 1991 was also filed by Shri K. Kanagaraj, Secretary, CITU District Committee, District Thoothukudi, for instructions to the State of Tamil Nadu, TNPCB and the Union of India to take suitable action against the appellant industry for its non adoption of safety measures due to which there were pollution and industrial accidents happening in the plant.
6. A Division Bench of the High Court takes the writ petitions with the instruction to the appellant-company to shut down its plant at Tuticorin.
7. The High Court by its declared that the employees of the appellant industry would be entitled to compensation under Section 25FFF of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 along with the directions given to District Collector, Tuticorin to take required and immediate steps for the re-employment of employees of appellant-company in some other companies/factories/organizations so to order staying the impugned judgment of the High Court.
Issues raised in the case:-
- Whether the writ petition is justified or not?
- Whether the appellant is to be held liable or not?
Mr. C.A. Sundaram, learned senior counsel appearing on the behalf of appellants submitted before the court that one ground stated in the impugned judgment given by High Court instructing the closure of the appellants plant and TNPCB had mentioned in the Consent order that appellant industry ensures that the location of the industry must be 25 kms. away from the area which is ecologically sensitive in nature . The report of National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute of 1998 was also submitted to the High Court which says that appellants plant was situated within 25 kilometres of range .It was also submitted by the learned counsel that prior to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, some environmental guidelines had been issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Department of Environment, Government of India, in August, 1985 and one of the guidelines therein was that industries must be located at least 25 kms. away from the ecologically sensitive areas and it is on account of these guidelines that the TNPCB in its Consent Order dated 22.05.1995 under the Water Act had stipulated that the plant of the appellants should be situated 25 kms. away from ecologically sensitive areas.They also submitted that the second ground given by the High Court for shutting down of the plant of the appellants was that this being a project exceeding Rs.50/- crores thus required environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India after conduction of public hearing that is mandatory process but no materials were being provided to the High court to evidence any public hearing being conducted .
Also Mr. Sundaram submitted that Court also took its opinion in the impugned judgment based on the report of NEERI of 1998.
The last ground Mr. Sundaram submitted in the court is regarding the instruction given by HC for shutting down of the plant of the appellants because plant caused severe pollution which was recorded by NEERI as well and was mentioned in its report of 2005 submitted to the High Court.
The learned cousel also submitted that the appellant industry provides employment opportunities to about 3000 people and yields a huge revenue to both the Central and State Governments. Thereforce ,shutting of the plant c of the appellants also not be in the public interest.
Mr. V. Gopalsamy, who was himself the writ petitioner appeared in-person and supported the impugned judgment given by High Court. He further submitted that the TNPCB in its No Objection Certificate as well as in its Consent Order under the Water Act clearly showed that the appellant industry company must ensure the fact that the location of its unit should be 25 kms. away from ecological sensitive area . Tamil Nadu Govt. have also stated that all the 21 islands including the four near Tuticorin in the Gulf of Munnar Marine National Park are ecologically sensitive areas in the affidavit .He also submitted that NEERI in its report of 1998 stated that four out of twenty one islands which are Vanthivu, Kasuwar, Karaichalli and Villanguchalli, are at distances of 6 kms., 7 kms. and 15 kms. respectively from Tuticorin.
He further submitted that the main ground that was present in the writ petitions before the High Court by National Trust For Clean Environment was that the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, and the TNPCB had not applied their knowledge to ascertain the nature of the industry as well as the degree of pollution created by industry and the capacity of the appellant industry to manage the waste without causing any adverse effect on the environment as well on the residents residing in that area.
The judgement given by the honorable judges after considering the whole facts and the magnitude of feasibility of the appellant held that appellant is liable for a compensation amounting Rs. 100 crores for the creation of pollution in the environment. The directed amount to be deposited to Collector of Thoothukudi district. That amount is to be spent on expenses incurred for improving the environment in every sense which was destructed by the appellants industry with the consultation of Secretary of Government of Tamilnadu and TNPCB and approval of the Secretary. By this the court applies the principle ofPolluter Pay Principle in the judgement. The reasoning of the judgement was that the appellant industry continue with their production without the renewal of consent by the TNPCB . Along with this there was a suppression of material facts and manipulation of facts also. Further more, also observed that the employment aspect of the case that means the industry provide 1300 employees employment opportunities and the transactions of the industry contributes ahuge revenue for Central as well as State government in terms of Excise duties, VAT etc. After considering the public interest court do not think fit to use its discretion under Article 136 of the Constitution to refuse the relief on the ground of manipulation and suppression of material facts in the petition.
Significance and critical analysis of judgement:-
According to my view the judgement given by the honourable judges is reasonable and justified after considering the magnitude of the feasibility of appellants along with the material facts of the case. It was reasonable to penalize appellant by fine amounting Rs100 crore for polluting the environment in each and every aspect of nature in one or the other manner. The amount imposed to be used for the improvement of environment. The court applies the PolluterPay principle. They also considered Public Interest for thousand employs which are engaged in the industry and applied the same in the case. Therefore according to my view the judgement was justified.