GURUGRAM: The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) can fine polluters without court order, as it has formed guidelines, at the state level, that allow the pollution board to penalise and recover monetary compensation from individuals and organisations engaged in polluting activities at its own discretion without seeking or receiving instructions from courts.
An order to this effect, with detailed guidelines for implementation, was issued by the HSPCB chairman on April 29.
S Narayanan, member secretary, HSPCB said, “So far, the standard course of action (against polluters) involved prosecuting those who were doing the polluting, and letting legal recourse determine the fine to be paid. Now, with immediate effect, the HSPCB has the authority to levy fines at its discretion before proceeding with prosecution.”
The new guidelines for imposing and recovering compensation is a result from the ‘polluter pays’ principle of environmental governance, which makes the violators responsible for polluting to pay for the resulting environmental damage. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Supreme Court of India have upheld this principle on multiple occasions.
As per the officials, this revision of decorum would enable instant execution of environmental laws, and leave little room for polluters to get away without facing the monetary consequences of their actions. The revenue thus earned will be held in a separate account, to be used for remediation of polluted environment.
Additional violations that take in is withholding or manipulating data about effluents and emissions monitoring, non-compliance with action plans, operating without consent, accidental or intentional discharge of pollutants into the environment, lapses in implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to curb air pollution in Delhi-NCR, and failure to impose the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
The order released on April 29 states, “The assessment and utilisation of environmental compensation will be done by the concerned Regional Office”. It goes on to add that if the violators fail to deposit the penalty within a period of 15 days after receiving directions from the regional office, they will be prosecuted under the relevant sections of the Environmental Protection Act, Air Act and Water Act.
The decision was taken at the 63rd conference of member secretaries and chairpersons of SPCBs, held on March 18. The guidelines were developed by the CPCB in response to a 2017 NGT order, which empowered it to “assess and recover compensation for damage to the environment.” Now, with the order passed on April 29, the same responsibilities have been formally handed down to the HSPCB, with other states expected to follow suit.