Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Sikkim High Court seeks response of Central Ground Water Board on permitting 22 companies to extract ground water

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The Sikkim High Court sought explanation by the Central Ground Water Board on granting permission to 22 companies for extracting ground water, when sufficient surface water was available.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Justice Meenakshi Madan passed the order on July 27, while hearing a suo motu PIL regarding discharge of Effluents by Pharma Companies situated at Singhtam.

The pivotal issue is regarding extraction of the groundwater, though sufficient surface water is available in the State.

In the earlier order, the Bench asked, “The Central Government Counsel shall give reasons as to why after having sufficient surface water, the necessity of extraction of ground water arises.”

During the hearing on Tuesday, the Bench observed that the permission so granted for extracting the ground water were conditional, but there is nothing available on record to show those conditions have been complied with by the industries and the Regional Authorities have recorded its satisfaction. It is also not on record that the condition as specified has been truly implemented and who is the Authority verifying those facts and whether they have been checked by spot verification, the Court further observed.

The High Court was surprised that even during pendency of the Public Interest Litigation permissions have been granted for extracting the ground water without mentioning the fact that such permission is subject to conditions of the orders passed by the High Court.

“It appears that the Central Ground Water Board and its Authorities have not specified reason for granting no objection for extracting the ground water and without such reason conditional permissions were granted. The conditions so stipulated in those permissions have been complied or not it is not on record, however, we cannot appreciate such functioning of the Authority”, said the Court.

The Court took the matter of serious concern that those Pharmaceutical companies have again applied for renewal and in most of the cases renewal has been permitted and nothing has been suggested to show true compliance in spirit by Board or their Officers

“This is a matter of serious concern of the Court that the Central Ground Water Board constituted under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is bound to comply with the provisions of Section 3(2) and the powers of Section 5”.

It is also the concern of the Court that the extraction of that water is permissible and what was the step of the Authorities to check the same and also of compliance of the condition of the no objection.

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As nothing is available to explain the issue, therefore, the Court deem it appropriate to observe that any of the permission of extraction of the ground water granted to the industries in the State must be after recording the satisfaction and by assigning the reason.

“In case such permission/renewal is found in violation of any conditions, action taken is required to be specified to the Court. All such permissions shall be now subject to the orders, if any, passed in this Public Interest Litigation. It is made clear here if any Authority is found violating the Order of the Court or power not duly exercised then they may be held responsible”, the order reads.

The High Court sought explanation within a period of four weeks. The matter is listed on September 10 for further hearing.

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