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After 100 days of protests and two days of firing that claimed 13 lives last week, the government closed down the unit citing article 48-A of the Constitution, which deals with protection and improvement of environment, and a section of the Water Act which gives powers to the state government to make a direction to the pollution control board.
Advocate Ritwick Dutta who specialises in environment law, said, “If the pollution control board or the government is directing for closure, specific violations of the Air Act, Water Act and Environment Protection Act need to be cited. The order should be based on sound reasoning and state what the liability of the company as they have to clean up the mess.”
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) can ask the Centre to revoke the environmental clearance given to the plant to make it difficult for the company to go to court. The government can also file civil proceedings in NGT and criminal proceedings in a trial court. The continuous air and water quality data should be in public domain and TNPCB should be able to present its case.
“TNPCB should present all the evidence, and there is enough evidence,” he said. TNPCB found violations by the plant on several occasions, but failed to reason its decision in the NGT. Now, the case is weaker because the Tamil Nadu government hasn’t cited current pollution levels or specific violations in its closure order.