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Pollution on tracks: NGT asks Railways to penalise offenders

A bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also slammed the Railway authorities while asking the General Manager, Northern Zone to file a statement on the number of offenders booked so far and take all effective steps to punish them without delay and default.

“It is obvious that every conceivable human act contributing to pollution on railway tracks or on railway properties is objectionable... We direct the Zonal Manager of all Railway zones to start collecting fines from the offenders in accordance with Railway Board Rules 2012, besides taking appropriate action in terms of Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.

“If an individual is polluting the environment he ought to contribute for removal of offending polluting elements as well as restoration of the environment compatible with the ecology or environment of the area in question,” the bench said.

The Railway Board Rules 2012 prohibit throwing or depositing litter on occupied and unoccupied railway premises, cooking, bathing, spitting, urinating, defecating, feeding animal or birds, repairing or washing of vehicles, washing utensils or clothes or any other objects or keeping any type of storage in any railway premises.

“We further direct that any person who is found to be polluting the environment, creating public nuisance, which obviously is creating health hazards to the public at large, would be liable to pay at least sum of Rs 5,000 or such other amount as may be determined by the tribunal upon notice in accordance with law on Polluter Pays principle,” it said.

“We see no reason as to why, the railway administration, which has its own police force, station master, cleaning staff and supervisory staff veers around the question of lodging FIR, while law empowers them to act and collect fines from the offenders in accordance with Rules, 2012,” it said.

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) informed the bench that its secretary had held a meeting of the officers concerned and the matter was under effective consideration and final report would be submitted before the tribunal shortly.

The petition filed by lawyers Saloni Singh and Arush Pathania, said that the railway authorities have failed to perform their statutory duties and are indirectly responsible for causing pollution on the railway properties particularly on railway tracks.

The counsel appearing for Railways told the tribunal that the jhuggis constructed near the railway tracks are the main source of pollution and for their removal and building of alternative houses for the occupants Rs 1,125 crore was deposited with the MCD years ago but no effective action was taken.

The tribunal then directed the Commissioners of all the three municipal corporations, to be present before it on the next date of hearing, December 24, and explain as to what steps have been taken in furtherance and for utilisation of Rs 1,125 crores, given by the Railways and what steps have been taken to utilise the amount for removal of the source of pollution near the railway tracks.

The tribunal also asked the railway authorities to educate people in relation to the proposed action forthwith by variety of means. The education programme undertaken by the Railways should include due publicity of the Rules of 2012, it added.
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