The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench rejected the plea of state agency Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) for granting permission for Chhat Puja in Rabindra Sarobar with restrictions. It upheld its previous Order banning any such ritual there to save its ecosystem. This Order was dated 17th September 2020.
KMDA functions under the State Urban Development Department. They recently moved the NGT East Zone seeking permission to allow Chhath Puja rituals in the waterbody plagued by pollution. In 2016, the NGT had allowed Chhath puja to be performed in the lake for that year only under certain regulations. Next year, the Court had ordered that no Chhath Puja rituals would be allowed anymore to prevent pollution of the lake. However, in 2018 and 2019, thousands of devotees forcefully entered the lake area and performed Chhath Puja rituals.
On the reason behind moving the NGT again, KMDA CEO Antara Acharya said, “It is religious sentiment involved and many women and children gather at the spot. It is difficult to prevent them from entering the lake compound.”
KMDA claimed before the Tribunal that there is in deference to the religious sentiment of people.
They also argued that there could be a law and order problem as thousands of devotees broke open locked gates of the sprawling lake area last year and offered puja violating the NGT orders.
The NGT rejected and passed the Judgment for the first time dated 15th November 2017. The Applicant sought a review of this Judgment.
Similarly, in the matter dated 13/01/2015 regarding pollution of river Yamuna, the NGT on Thursday held Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living was responsible for the damage to the Yamuna floodplains caused by the holding of the World Culture Festival, 2016.
Court’s Observation and Decision
A Bench of Justice S.P. Wangdi and two expert members found that:
“….The grounds set out for condonation of 944 days in filing the application do not fall within the meaning of sufficient cause that prevented the Applicant from filing the M.A. No. 01/2020 and is, accordingly, rejected on this ground also.”
They rejected the Petition and directed KMDA to ensure that its earlier Order of not allowing anyone on the premises of the lake on the Chhat Puja days in November is strictly enforced this time.