The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench, New Delhi, passed an Order on 24th August 2020. This was regarding hotels requiring CTO (Chief Technology Officer). The NGT clearly said that the hotels cannot avoid obligation under the Water Act to prevent discharge of any untreated pollutants. Section 26 of the Water Act, 1974 applies to an establishment set up before 1974.
Two appeals filed by Pramod Kumar Agarwal and M/s Sushila Touring Hotel challenged the Orders of the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (PCB). This required the Appellants to make arrangement for sewage treatment and taking consent to operate in terms of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
Arguments before the Court
The Appellants claimed that they were operating since 1980. Section 26 of the Water Act does not require the Appellants to apply for consent to operate unless a date is notified by the State Government. The Appellants did not have any plant or machinery or generator set or boiler. Therefore, the Air Act also does not apply.
The case dealt with the provisions of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
Section 26 of the Water Act states:
“Provision regarding the existing discharge of sewage or trade effluent—Where immediately before the commencement of this Act any person was discharging any sewage or trade effluent into a 1[stream or well or sewer or on land], the provisions of section 25 shall, so far as may be, apply in relation to such person as they apply in relation to the person referred to in that section subject to the modification that the application for consent to be made under sub-section (2) of that section shall be made on or before such date as may be specified by the State Government by notification in this behalf in the Official Gazette.”
Article 48A of the Constitution of India, 1949:
“Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life: The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.”
Section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010:
“Tribunal to apply certain principles-The Tribunal shall while passing any order or decision or award, apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle.”
The Court observed that Pollution free environment is part of Right to Life and is expressly covered by the Directive Principle under Article 48A. The Tribunal is to enforce Sustainable Development and Precautionary principles under Section 20 of the NGT Act. The Appellants cannot avoid obligation under the Water Act to prevent discharge of any untreated pollutants. Moreover, Section 26 applied to an establishment set up prior to 1974.
The NGT stated that the regulatory framework of Water and Air Acts is certainly applicable to the Appellants for running hotels where polluted water and air generation potential are not ruled out. The NGT dismissed the appeals as they did not find any merit in the appeals.