New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, while taking into note of a report that 60,000 people have died due to pollution, told the Centre that “people are more important than industries”.
A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forests after it sought time to study the impact of ban on import of pet coke used in industries as fuel which is a cause of pollution and asked whether the government had allowed the import without studying its impact on the people’s health.
The bench said: “You (Environment Ministry) seem very keen to allow the import of pet coke. Were you earlier allowing import of pet coke in the country without even conducting the study?
“The other day newspapers reports said that 60,000 people died due to pollution. What are you doing? People are dying in the city due to huge amount of pollution. We don’t know whether the newspaper report is correct or a fake news. But your reports have also earlier indicated that people have lost lives due to pollution.”
“Let us be very clear. The people of this country are more important than the industries,” the apex court added.
Advocate Aparajita Singh, who was assisting the court as amicus curiae in the case, told the bench that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has supported the ban on import of pet coke, but the Environment Ministry has been opposing it.
She said that the Environment Ministry’s report “is like an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ report” and while the Petroleum Ministry is coming forward, the Environment Ministry is not bothered. “Now they say they want to further study the impact,” she added.
She alleged that the Environment Ministry’s stand on conducting the study was the reason for “delaying” the ban on import of pet coke.
Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni, appearing for the Environment Ministry, asked “What’s wrong in conducting the study and having a discussion with them (EPCA)?”, while urging to give at least two days to prepare the report.
The court directed the Environment Ministry to conduct a meeting with EPCA during the week and apprise it about the expert committee report.
The top court on May 10 had set a deadline of June 30 for the Central government to decide on the issue of banning import of pet coke and said the government’s failure on this count would compel it to pass a direction.
The court was hearing a PIL filed in 1985 by environmentalist M.C. Mehta relating to air pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR).