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The Plastic Waste Management Rules need to be given effect to ensure that the “Polluter Pays” principle is fully implemented: High Court of Delhi

There is no doubt that the Plastic Waste Management Rules need to be given effect to, in order to ensure that the “Polluter Pays” Principle is fully implemented and the industries do take care of the pollution that is being created by their actions, and their responsibilities qua the same are also duly prescribed and managed. This was held in CEMENT MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION & ORS. v. UNION OF INDIA THROUGH: SECRETARY MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT FORESTS CLIMATE CHANGE [W.P.(C) 5191/2021] in the High Court of Delhi by a single bench consisting of JUSTICE PRATHIBA M. SINGH.

Facts are that the Petitioners are an association of several cement manufacturers, they have filed a petition challenging the Standard Operating Procedure, for Registration of Producers, Importers & Brand-Owners, under the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 (as amended from time to time), dated March 2021, issued by the Central Pollution Control Board as according to them, the impugned SOP and the notice for registration are impractical as there are various obligations imposed on the Petitioners.

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that a Draft Guidelines Document was also put up in 2020 by the Ministry of Environment, Union of India, wherein various industries have given their representations including the Petitioners. Since the final platform and the modalities for implementation of the said Rules have not yet been finalized, the issuance of the SOP and bringing the same into effect is not justified.

The counsel appearing for the counsel for defendants submitted that,  the CPCB is merely a regulatory body. Under Rule 9(2) of the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016, the responsibility is of the producers and they are under an obligation to file their Form-1’s for registration as producer or as brand owners.

The court made reference to the Plastic Waste Management Rules that were notified, by the Government who had constituted a committee in October 2017, to evaluate the implementation of the said Rules. The government had notified a clarification in regards to the same which had stated as under, “Since the committee constituted by the Ministry has yet to finalize its report and submit to the Ministry, SPCBs/PCCs are advised not to initiate further action against ‘producers’ pursuant to the notice issued by them until further orders of the Ministry. This issue with the approval of the Competent Authority.”

On inspection of the draft guidelines notified by the Union of India in 2020, the court made the following observation, “The Draft Guidelines contemplate the creation of a national platform for registration of the producers, importers and brand owners, as also other stakeholders. It also contemplates the creation of a uniform EPR framework for the entire country which ought to be brand and geography neutral. The Draft Guidelines also provide for a graded approach to be taken in respect of the plastic waste management.”

Considering the facts of the case and the submissions made by the Union of India, the court issued direction to the union, that with respect to the Draft Guidelines, the Ministry of Environment should after interacting with all the stakeholders, within two months, notify the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021. The said Rules would take into consideration the suggestions made by the various stakeholders, and shall also establish a framework for Plastic Waste Management. If there is any inconsistency between the Action plan of 2019 and the present SOP, all members of the Petitioner association,  should endeavor to submit their plans to the best extent possible and no coercive steps would be taken against them and their members, for violation of the SOP under challenge.

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