*Concerns of HC, House Panel yet to be taken seriously
JAMMU, Feb 18: Though the Government has once again imposed ban on polythene across the length and breadth of Jammu and Kashmir yet no attention has so far been paid towards its enforcement as a result of which violation is continuing openly and without any fear of law. Moreover, the menace is plaguing the State despite repeated concerns and directions from the High Court as well as Committee on Environment of the State Legislature.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that following repeated directions from the High Court, the Forest Department vide SRO-182 dated June 18, 2008 imposed ban on the polythene carry bags within the territorial limits of Jammu and Kashmir.
This was done by the Forest Department while exercising the powers conferred by Sub-Section (3) of Section 7 of the Jammu and Kashmir State Non-Biodegradable Material (Management Handling and Disposal) Act, 2007.
However, the Forest Department remained content with the issuance of SRO-182 instead of taking all the required steps to enforce the ban as a result of which there was no perceptible change in containing environmental hazards caused by the polythene bags, sources said, adding the slackness of the Government in enforcing the ban also came under severe criticism from the Division Bench of the High Court when the grave issue was highlighted before it through Public Interest Litigation.
In the month of November 2013, a Division Bench of Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, while expressing displeasure over the menace of polythene still plaguing the State, observed that had serious attention been paid towards strict enforcement of ban the situation could have improved up to certain extent.
“Despite all measures taken by the State Government and despite repeated directions from this court the violations are unabated as a result of which object of the PIL—eradicating the menace of polythene—could not be achieved”, the DB had observed. Accordingly, the DB had directed for initiating several measures, which included strict market checking by the teams under the direct supervision of District Magistrates.
Even Committee on Environment of State Legislature headed by MLA Mohd Yousuf Tarigami in the year 2013 had recommended a complete ban on the use of polythene throughout the State. The recommendation was based on the inputs about continuous violation of ban order of 2008.
Now, the Forest Department vide SRO-45 dated February 3, 2017 has once again imposed ban on the polythene in supersession of SRO-182 of 2008. In the latest notification, the ban has also been imposed on manufacture, stocking, distribution, sale and use of polythene carry bags, plastic sheets or like, cover made of plastic sheet, plastic packaging and multi-layered packaging less than 50 microns thickness within the territorial limits of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, even after the latest ban order the situation has not improved and sale and use of polythene bags is continuing unabated across the State mainly because of the failure of all the concerned authorities to ensure strict enforcement, sources said, adding “on one side violations are taking place openly and on the other side those responsible for enforcement have yet not woken up from deep slumber”.
“It is only because of non-seriousness on the part of concerned authorities that situation has not changed otherwise there are enough provisions under Jammu and Kashmir State Non-Biodegradable Material (Management Handling and Disposal) Act, 2007 to punish the violators”, sources said while pointing towards Section 10 of the Act, which deals with penalties.
“Whosoever is guilty of any act of commission or omission in contravention of any of the provisions of the Act or of any rules, notification or order, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to Rs 5000 or with both”, reads Section 10.
Moreover, if a person having been convicted of an offence punishable under this Act is again convicted under the Act, he shall be punishable for the second or subsequent offence for a term of imprisonment which may extend up to two months and shall also be liable to fine which may extend up to Rs 10,000.