Thursday, February 9, 2023

Meghalaya High Court says its intervention is limited by the nature of case

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The Meghalaya High Court has recently observed that there are matters where the intervention by the Court is limited by the very nature of the matter. Judges sitting in courtrooms cannot identify sites to be used for permanent or temporary dumping of garbage and it is high time that the State and the local administration got more proactive and not train the gun, so to say, from the Court’s shoulders.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one Synjuk Ki Waheh Shnong complaining of household waste and general garbage not being collected in Jowai urban township area from February 4, 2022.

According to the Court, while the petitioner complains that household garbage keeps piling up in homes in Jowai without any mechanism being in place for its removal, the Jowai Municipal Board submitted that garbage from the streets and market-places is being regularly removed in trucks and taken to the temporary site.

The Court held that it is imperative that the household garbage be also removed simultaneously with the removal of garbage from the streets and the market-places.

Though the State reports that the headmen of the relevant villages have altogether declined to allow the proposed permanent site for dumping garbage, the Court opined that a solution has to be found by the State and local administration and there cannot be any judicial pronouncement as to what would be the proper site. The State also reports that, in the meantime, steps are being taken for solid waste management at an estimated cost in excess of Rs 13 crore.

The permanent dumping site has to be identified sooner than later and arrangements made irrespective of how far it may be from Jowai. Things cannot wait nor can garbage be allowed to pile up, whether in public places or individual homes, till the solid waste management system is put in place, directed the Bench.

“The prospect of the pre-monsoon showers on garbage resulting in a deadly cocktail, toxic for most plant and animal life and making for the ideal hotbed for diseases, looms large. This aspect cannot be over emphasised as the monsoon is due within a month and the pre-monsoon showers show no sign of relenting.”

The bench went on to observe that this is a matter where there can be no judicial solution; but the Court will not hesitate to issue directions that may be harsh for both the State and local administration, if public life is endangered as a result of any apathy to take appropriate steps on the part of the authorities who are responsible therefor.

“The problem has persisted for nearly two months now and the residents of Jowai have been more than patient in enduring the ordeal. It is hoped that a better solution is thought of and implemented before the matter appears next, ten days hence. List on June 3, 2022,” the order reads.

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