Delhi is getting buried under mounds of garbage and Mumbai is sinking under water, but the government is doing nothing, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. It fined 10 states and two union territories for not filing their affidavits on their policies for solid waste management strategy.
Expressing its helplessness over the situation, the top court lamented that when the courts intervene, the judges are attacked for judicial activism, and said what can be done when government of the day does not do anything or acts in an irresponsible manner.
A bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta referred to the recent top court order on the powers of the Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor and asked them to inform it by Wednesday who was responsible for clearing of the three “mountains of garbage” (landfill sites) at Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur in the national capital.
“You see, Delhi is getting buried under mountain loads of garbage and Mumbai is sinking. But yet, the government does not do anything. When the courts intervene, we are attacked for judicial activism. We are given lectures on separation of powers and encroachment of jurisdiction,” it said.
The bench was annoyed after it was informed that around 13 states and several Union Territories have not yet formulated their policy for solid waste management strategy.
The top court imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Punjab, Lakshadweep and Puducherry for not filing the affidavit despite earlier directions.
The bench also slapped a fine of Rs 2 lakh each on “remaining defaulting states/UTs” whose lawyers were also not present in the court room during the hearing, without naming these states.
“One final opportunity is given to these States/UTs to comply with the laws governing India, failing which we may have to call the Chief Secretary of the concerned States/UTs to inform us why the laws governing India are not applicable to these States/UTs,” it said and posted the matter for further hearing on August 7.
It said that the costs should be deposited within two weeks from Tuesday with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee for being used on juvenile justice issues.
“The tragedy is that more than two-thirds of the States/UTs in the country have neither bothered to comply with the orders passed by the Court, nor bothered to comply with the directions given by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF). This is not only a tragic state of affairs but a shocking state of affairs, particularly since solid waste management is a huge problem in this country,” the bench said.
“Every second day, we are attacked for judicial activism. Every now and then there is a statement that courts are resorting to judicial activism or encroaching upon the powers of the executive or the legislature. What should be done when nobody is working,” it said.
The court observed that when the state governments do not obey the laws framed by Parliament, how will they care about the rules.
“What if the government does not do any work or acts in a very irresponsible manner? What should happen and who shall be held accountable? They don’t even follow our orders,” the bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni.
The ASG replied that as per the Constitution, the states will have to comply with the orders of the top court and their officers can be held accountable for non-compliance.
“The Solid Waste Management Rules came into force on or about April 8, 2016. We are two years down the line, but we are shocked to know that more than two-third of the States/UTs in the country have not yet complied with the basic requirement of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016,” the bench said.
It observed that due to the loads of garbage in Delhi, people were getting infected by dengue, malaria and chikungunya, while Mumbai was sinking under heavy rainfall.
The court noted that Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Nagaland, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Andaman and Nicobar Island have filed their affidavits with regard to the policy on solid waste management.
The counsel for Sikkim, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Telangana and Daman and Diu submitted that they would file their affidavits with complete details of the policy and the solid waste management strategy during the course of the day.
Nadkarni submitted that the MoEF have given repeated reminders to all states and UTs to comply with the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Rules as well as the directions given by the top court.
The court had on March 27, taken strong objections to non-implementation of solid waste management rules in the country and observed that “India will one day go down under the garbage”.
It had earlier said that days are not far when garbage mounds at the Ghazipur landfill site in Delhi will match the height of iconic 73-metre high Qutab Minar and red beacon lights will have to be used to ward off aircraft flying over it.
In 2015, the top court had taken cognisance of death of a seven-year-old boy due to dengue. He had been allegedly denied treatment by five private hospitals and his distraught parents subsequently committed suicide.