Does the Petroleum Ministry consider itself to be ‘God’ or a ‘super government’ and think that the “unemployed” judges are at their mercy, an anguished Supreme Court bench observed on Monday.
The scathing remarks by a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta came when the top court was informed that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) had only on Sunday apprised the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) about the issue of ban on import of pet coke, which is used as industrial fuel.
The court, which was hearing a matter relating to air pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the MoPNG for “laxity”.
The top court also imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on the Delhi government for not filing a status report giving a time-line for removal of traffic bottlenecks on several corridors in the city.
The strong observations against MoPNG came when Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), told the bench that they had received a response from the MoPNG on the issue only on Sunday.
“Is MoPNG a God? Are they God? They would respond whenever they want? Tell them to change their name from MoPNG to God”.
“Is MoPNG a super government? Is it above the Government of India? What is the status of MoPNG, tell us. Why are they not complying with any order,” the bench asked.
When the ASG said that their affidavit was ready and he should be allowed to file it during the day, Justice Lokur shot back, “if they (MoPNG) do not feel like complying with the orders, they do not comply, and think that the unemployed judges of the Supreme Court will give them time. Are we supposed to be at the mercy of MoPNG.”
The bench allowed the ASG to file the affidavit during the course of the day, but said “we are surprised by the attitude of the MoPNG in taking their own time in responding to the MoEF’s communication. The delay is entirely because of the laxity of the MoPNG.”
It said if the cost of Rs 25,000 is not deposited by the MoPNG with the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority on or before July 13, it would enhance the amount of fine.
The bench then fixed the matter for hearing on July 16.
During the brief hearing, advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, said the MoPNG was supposed to respond to the communication on the issue of ban on import of pet coke and supply of natural gas.
Regarding the Delhi government not filing a status report on removal of traffic bottlenecks in the national capital, the bench said that as per its May 10 order, the Delhi government was supposed to file it within six weeks but they have not filed it yet and no lawyer on their behalf was present during the proceedings.
The court referred to the orders passed by it and said it appeared that Delhi government was not concerned about them.
On May 10, Delhi government had told the court that six task forces have been set up to look into the issue of traffic bottlenecks in several corridors in Delhi. It had said that such corridors were classified under categories A, B and C and steps were being taken with respect to 11 out of 28 corridors falling under category A.
During the hearing today, the amicus told the bench about the issue related to the tenure of the court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
On being asked, the ASG told the bench that EPCA’s tenure was scheduled to end on July 4 this year which has been extended by three months through a government order.
The court was hearing the matters arising out of a PIL filed in 1985 by environmentalist M C Mehta who had raised the issue of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR.
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