The Indian Supreme Court made everything very clear to Union Ministry of Environment regarding the ban on the import of petcoke, an industrial fuel that causes extreme environmental pollution. “Let’s be clear about something, the people of this country are more important for us than anything,” stated the Court Justices.
M C Mehta, an environmentalist, filed a PIL in 1985 concerning over the declining air quality in Delhi-NCR and questioned the import of toxic fuel. The court asked the government for the supposed nationwide ban on petcoke as well as furnace oil since December 2017.
The court has already put a ban on petcoke in UP, NCR, Haryana, and Rajasthan. The ban includes the prohibition of sale, distribution, and use of furnace oil and petcoke. The court stated how the petcoke is imported from the United States and China, which have already banned it from their countries due to its severe impacts on the environment and human beings.
“What is more important for you? Saving the lives of people or industry?” Supreme Court’s Green Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur asked the Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, representing the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).
“You seem very keen to allow the import of pet coke. Were you earlier allowing import of pet coke in the country without even conducting the study? The other day newspapers reports said that 60,000 people died due to pollution. What are you doing? People are dying in the city due to the huge amount of pollution,” the bench said, “we don’t know whether the newspaper report is correct or a fake news. But your reports have also earlier indicated that people have lost lives due to pollution.”
Mr. Nadkarni said the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) mentioned “conducting a study and having a discussion”, the bench replied “let us be very clear. The people of this country are more important than the industries”.
Amicus Curiae, advocate Aparajita Singh shielded the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) by claiming that the MoPNG supported the import ban while MoEF was against it.
“The MoEF report is like an ‘Alice in Wonderland report’. MoPNG is coming forward, but MoEF is not bothered. Now they say they want to further study the impact,” she said. She also said the study is done to delay the ban.
The bench asked Nadkarni “What is more important for you, saving the lives of the people or the industry?”
To which he replied, “We also consider that the life of people is more important than the industries but there will be no harm if we come up with a detailed report. There are various situations in which pet coke is used in industries and not every scenario is a cause of pollution”.
Finally, the court ordered MoEF to come up with the report with EPCA within a week and report to the court.