Bombay High Court refuses to stay plastic ban, but directs Maharashtra govt to ensure no citizens are penalised

Mumbai: In a major setback to lakhs of plastic manufacturers, the Bombay High Court on Friday refused to stay the ban imposed by the Maharashtra government on use or sale of one-time-use plastic products. The HC, however, batted for citizens and accordingly directed the government to ensure no citizen is subjected to criminal prosecution if found in possession of banned plastic items.  The division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla was looking at a batch of petitions challenging the ban on plastic products.

Having heard the submissions, Justice Oka, in his interim orders, said, “The common man is a victim for several years because of the waste generated by plastic. We have to consider the impact of the waste generated by plastic on the environment and ecosystem and also the citizens. The harmful effects created like clogging of drains can also not be ignored.”

“On one hand, the government is faced with a serious issue of creation of nearly 1200 tonnes of plastic waste generated daily in the State. On the other hand, the government has to consider the impact of its decision on the manufacturers. A purpose is set to be achieved by the government through these restrictions.  We do not think that the government has infringed the fundamental right of the manufacturers by imposing these restrictions,” Justice Oka ruled.

Having noted the affidavit filed by the State Environment Department in this context, Justice Oka said, “We find that sufficient material has been placed on record by the government to show that the restrictions are reasonable. At this stage, we are of the prima facie view that the restriction as imposed are reasonable.”

The judges, while referring to the notification of the government, noted that citizens, if found in possession of the banned items, would be subjected to penal action. “We cannot ignore that citizens would be in possession of the banned items. Also, we find no stipulated period for the citizens granted by the government to dispose of their plastic products. Thus, we direct the government not to take any coercive action against the individual citizens if found in possession of banned plastic items, for a period of three months,” Justice Oka said.

The government had by a notification dated March 23 prohibited the use of plastic bags (with and without handle), single-use disposable plastic or thermocol dishes, plates, cups, bowls, containers used for packaging foods, glasses, straw, forks, spoons, plastic used for packaging food grains or food materials, PET bottles below 500 ml etc.

However, by another notification dated April 11 the rules were modified wherein the use of PET bottles of all capacity “made of high-quality food grade virgin Bisphenol-A free material” with a pre-defined buyback policy printed on it was allowed. The notification also cast a duty on the manufacturers to set up collection centres, reverse vending machines and crushing machines at different places. While posting the matter for final hearing on June 8, the judges directed the manufacturers to make representations before the government, which is further directed to decide the same by May 5.

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