The Punjab Government’s efforts to reduce industrial pollution and conserve the state’s environment got a boost on Thursday with the High Court of Punjab & Haryana rejecting the plea for protection to polluting brick kiln owners who had failed to transition to the newly mandated emissions technology. The Captain Amarinder Singh led state government had issued orders directing that all brick kiln owners convert their polluting brick kilns to the Induced Draft Technology by September 30, beyond which no conventional brick kiln would be allowed to operate. The government had also issued orders listing out penalties for failure to shift to the new Induced Draft Technology / Zig Zag Technology.Several brick kiln owners had approached the court against the state government’s orders, but, in their resumed hearing today, a Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajeev Sharma and Justice H.S. Sidhu refused to grant any relief to them. In the previous hearing on October 1, Advocate General, Punjab Atul Nanda had placed before the court details of the state government’s orders and directives, arguing that these were in compliance with the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board, various circulars of the Punjab Pollution Control Board, as well as orders passed by the National Green Tribunal dated January 22, 2019.
As per the state government’s orders, brick kilns found continuing to operate without converting to the Induced Draft technology will be required to pay compensation on the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle, amounting to Rs 25,000/- per month for a kiln with a capacity of more than 30,000 bricks per day and Rs. 20,000/- per month for kiln with the capacity of less than 30,000 bricks per day.In their petitions, brick kiln operators using agricultural residue as fuel prayed for exemption from the various orders of the state government, stating that they were in the process of conversion to the new Technology, which was taking time due to lack of trained person available for converting these kilns.However, Nanda, in his argument on Tuesday, had also raised a preliminary objection to the maintainability of the petitions, pointing out that the petitioners had an alternative efficacious remedy in the form of appeal before the National Green Tribunal, as opposed to filing a Writ Petition before the High Court.In the resumed hearing today, Additional Solicitor General Satya Pal Jain stated that in view of the fact that more than 30,000 objections had been received against the draft notification dated 25.02.2019, one month’s times would be required by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, for which he requested time from the Court. Acceding to the request, the Court adjourned the matter to November 15, 2019.The Division Bench also clarified that they would refrain from passing any interim order, against the order dated 28.05.2019, passed by the State of Punjab.