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Subhash Kumar v/s State of Bihar

  • The petitioner filed a writ petition by way of public interest litigation alleging that the respondents, West Bokaro Collieries and Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) were polluting the river Bokaro by discharging surplus waste in the form of sludge/slurry as effluent from their washeries into the river making the water unfit for drinking and irrigation purposes.
  • The petitioner prayed for directions to the respondents to take immediate steps prohibiting the pollution of the river and to take legal action against TISCO under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The petitioner also claimed interim relief from this Court that he should be permitted to collect sludge/slurry flowing out of washeries of the respondents.
  • Bihar State Pollution Board asserted that directions have been issued to the Bokaro Collieries to take effective steps for improving the quality of the effluent going into the river Bokaro and that the TISCO Company has been granted permission to discharge their effluents from their outlets in accordance with sections 25 and 26 of the Water Act, 1974.
  • Whether the petitioner could file plea by way of Public Interest Litigation (PIL)?
  • Whether the water of the river Bokaro is polluted by the discharge of sludge/slurry from the washeries of the Respondent's Company?
Statutes and Provisions:
  • Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, 1950.
  • Section 25 and 26 of Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974.
  • Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, 1950.

Petitioner: Subhash Kumar v/s Respondent: State of Bihar and Ors.
Before the High Court of Bihar
AIR 1991 SC 420
Date of Judgement: 09 January 1991
Bench: Justice K.N. Singh; Justice N.D. Ojha

Arguments Advanced:
Arguments on the behalf of Petitioner:

It has been contended by the Petitioner that the surplus waste discharged in the form of sludge/slurry as effluent from washeries in the river, leaves the carboniferous product on the soil, which affects the fertility of the land. He further alleged that the water flowing to distant places is neither fit for drinking nor for irrigation purposes and the continuous discharge of sludge from Tata Iron & Steel Co. poses a heavy amount of risks to the health of people.

It has also asserted that after making continuous requests no actions have been taken by the State of Bihar and even is granting royalty on payment of leases. In his plea he has claimed relief for the issue of direction by directing the State of Bihar, Bihar Pollution Control Board and has pleaded immediate steps for curbing pollution in the Bokaro river from the discharge of sludge from Tata Iron and Steel & Co.

Arguments on behalf of Respondents:
The counsels for the respondents contended that the Bihar Pollution Control Board has taken all the necessary steps to prevent the pollution in the Bokaro river. The Tata Iron & Steel Co. has been granted sanction from the Board for discharging effluents from their outlets under Sections 25 and 26 of the Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974.

Before granting the discharge of the effluents to the Bokaro River, the Board has analyzed and monitored that the effluents generated from the washeries did not pollute the river. It was said by the respondents that to prevent the pollution in the Bokaro River, the Board issued direction to the Director of the Collieries to take necessary steps for improving the quality of the river.

It was further asserted by the respondents that four ponds were constructed to increase the storing capacity of the effluents. The effluent was monitored by the Pollution Board; an inspection was carried out by the Board of the settling tanks for the treatment of effluent from the washeries on 20th June 1988. It was found on the inspection that the four settling tanks installed were completed and there was no discharge from the effluents was found except that there was near to negligible seepage from the embankment.

It was further said that no discharge of the effluent was found in the Bokaro River and was no question of pollution of the river and hence the fertility of the land was also not affected. The respondents negate allegations made in the petition against them and have stated that the effective steps have been taken to prevent the discharge of sludge from washeries in the Bokaro River.

A fact was also stated by the Respondents that the Bokaro River remains dry during 9 months and therefore no question of pollution from the discharge of slurry can be raised, the slurry settled in the pond was considered for sale as the carboniferous materials found in the slurry are very important and valuable for the purpose of fuel. It was made sure by the Company that no slurry escaped from the pond as it is highly valuable of fuel generation.

Since the slurry has a high market value the company cannot afford to let it go waste in the river and for the same necessary steps has been taken by the Company that no slurry escapes in the pond. It was further said by the Respondents that Company complied with the directions stated under the State Pollution Control Board Act, 1974.

The Court in the present case held that the present petition was not filed keeping in view the public interest rather it is filed for self-interest. It was noted by the court that the materials on record show that petition was filed in the personal interest, keeping in view the facts the Court dismissed the present petition. The Court directed the Petitioner to pay Rs. 5,000/- as costs to the Respondents.

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