Mumbai: The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday gave relief to 62 textile units in Malegaon and allowed them to operate while staying notices issued by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) authorities on May 18 to these factories that manufacture yarn for grey clothes.
A two-member HC division bench, comprising Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla, also restrained the regional offices of MPCB from taking any coercive steps against the textile units such as disconnection of electricity, water, and other basic amenities.
Earlier, MPCB authorities had issued the notices on the ground that the 62 units were located in the non-conforming zones.
They set a pre-condition for these factories to operate.
The factories’ owners were directed to submit adequacy reports either from Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) or Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay and a no-objection certificate (NoC) from a city engineer of Malegaon municipal corporation with a recommendation to operate the industry at their present location.
The unit owners moved the HC contending that the notices were illegal, arbitrary, and oppressive.
Their counsel, advocate Manoj Harit, claimed that they had not violated any of the conditions and prayed before the court to grant them the consent to operate.
Harit said the issuance of the show-cause notices and that, too, by giving only 15 days for reply amid the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak reflected a mechanical approach.
“Getting reports from NEERI or IIT-Bombay within such a short span of time during this pandemic is impossible,” he argued while praying for a stay order before the court.
Advocate RV Govilkar, who represented MPCB, opposed the prayer for a stay order.
He submitted that the notices were issued in compliance with the principles of natural justice and it is for the petitioners to respond to the show-cause notices and satisfy the statutory authority about the fulfilment of conditions for grant of consent to operate.
He submitted that the petition was premature, as no decision was taken by the authority pursuant to the May 18 notices.
The bench found merit in the petitioners’ argument.
It said MPCB authorities have the powers to direct closure or regulate the operation of an industry under section 33A of the Water Act and Section 31A of the Air Act, but these powers are subject to provisions of the respective Acts and the authority would have to follow other provisions of the Acts before invoking them.
“It is not an unguided power to be exercised outside the scope of the provisions of the two Acts,” the court said.
Besides, the judges noted that the Malegaon civic body authorities had not yet submitted its reply regarding verification of the industrial units within the non-conforming zone.
“… a prima facie view can be taken that the impugned show-cause notices have been issued without jurisdiction and that, too, hastily,” said the bench while staying the MPCB notices.