November 27, 2018

"Prosecute the local agencies. Send them to jail. That is the only option left.”: Supreme Court

Delhi Pollution

Amid severe concerns of air pollution rising alarmingly high in India’s national capital, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) registering ‘Hazardous’ levels throughout the region, the Supreme Court on November 26 pulled up Delhi's municipalities for failure to address complaints registered by people regarding pollution, stating that erring officials who are supposed to take action against polluters but failed to do so should be brought to book for conniving with the main culprit and that such officials as well as government agencies should be prosecuted under Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act.

Notably, the suggestion to punish officials was given to the Court by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which had stated that officials and nodal agencies should also be penalized in case of failure to act for controlling air pollution incidents.

A counsel representing the Centre then informed the court that while some complaints in this regard were addressed, others are in the clutches of local agencies and that the citizens had registered 3337 complaints through the 'Sameer' App (launched by the CPCB) and 749 complaints through social media.

Representing CPCB, Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni informed the court that CPCB had already issued show cause notice to some of the nodal agencies to initiate criminal prosecution against them, and he, therefore, pleaded the court to pass an order empowering CPCB to initiate such proceedings against these officials and agencies.

Thereafter, Advocate Aparajita Singh, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter, stated that the agency failed to take action to control pollution as there was no provision to take action against them. Aparajita also highlighted that erring officials and agencies should be brought within the ambit of the penal provision of Section 15 in order to ensure that they discharge their duties as per law.

Allowing the Board to initiate prosecution, the court concluded, "Prosecute the local agencies. Send them to jail. That is the only option left.”

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