The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a petition challenging the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, passed on a plea raising the issue of unregulated use of plastics for packaging and its adverse effects on environment and health, saying it is a very serious matter. A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah issued notices to the Centre, Central Pollution Control Board and others seeking their responses on the plea against this year's January 8 order passed by the NGT.
It is a very serious matter. NGT was hearing the case in its original jurisdiction. It should not have allowed the matter to go like this, the bench said during the hearing. The apex court observed that the Centre, in its report filed before the NGT, had itself said that plastic packaging has adverse effects. We will look into it, the bench said.
Issue notice, it said and posted the matter for hearing after six weeks. The plea filed in the apex court by NGO 'Him Jagriti Uttaranchal Welfare Society' has challenged the NGT order claiming that despite arriving at the conclusion that there were adverse effects of plastic packaging on human health, the tribunal said it was not necessary to pass any further orders as the matter would be dealt with by the concerned executive authorities.
The tribunal failed to exercise its jurisdiction under section 14 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 despite the serious issues of public health and the environment raised by the appellant in relation to the unregulated and indiscriminate use of plastic in packaging, alleged the plea, seeking setting aside of the tribunal's order. It claimed the tribunal abdicated its function as an expert adjudicatory body on the environment by failing to consider the issues raised in the application filed before it, when extensive evidence was placed on record to show the harmful effects of excessive use of plastics in packaging on health of consumers, due to leaching of toxic substances.
It said that during the pendency of the matter before the tribunal, the NGT had directed constitution of an expert committee to look into the question of whether steps had been taken towards restrictions on plastic packaging, and if further regulatory provisions would be required. The plea said report submitted by the expert committee in August 2019 had accepted that excessive use of plastic especially in packaging of non-essential products is a matter of concern. It said over the last decade, there has been an exponential increase in the usage of plastic packaging, such as PET/plastic bottles and multilayer packs including tetra packs for packaging of various essential and non-essential items including but not limited to water, milk, liquor and others.