- Apprentice Lawyer
In an interesting development, the Karnataka High Court has sought the response of the State government in a public interest litigation (PIL) moved on behalf of a five-month-old infant, seeking to ban traffic movement within and through Bengaluru's Cubbon Park.
Notice was issued by Justices BV Nagarathna and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy. The Court, however, refused to grant any interim relief in the matter.
The petition filed through Advocates Anjan Dev Narayana and Annapoorna Seetharam, states that as per the National Disaster Management Authority guidelines, the Department of Horticulture cut off access to Cubbon Park from March 25 to May 20 this year.
The impact of the lockdown on the quality of the Park itself was highly positive, as there was a reduction of suspended particulate matter and carbon monoxide levels, states the PIL.
The State government, by an order dated September 8, directed the Department of Horticulture to open the parks within its jurisdiction. The very next day, the Joint Director of the Department of Revenue amended the September 8 order, revising the guidelines to allow pedestrian and vehicular movement within public parks, reads the PIL.
The plea states that the actions of the respondents have a direct impact on the health, well-being and quality of life of the petitioner, who as an infant, is made to bear the burden of the "environmentally irresponsible Respondents".
It is the petitioner's case that the actions of the State impinge upon his right to enjoy pollution-free air/water, and additionally impairs the quality of his life.
"The idea of ensuring that there are no motorized vehicles within the Park is neither novel, nor radical. It is submitted that over a decade ago, traffic was freely allowed within the Park till the Government of Karnataka ceased allowing buses, auto rickshaws and transport vehicles through the Park", states the PIL.
The plea relies on a study carried out by a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, to understand the impact of closing the Park's thoroughfares to vehicular traffic.
The PIL points out that the said report recommended closure of the Park to vehicular traffic after examining the significant improvement to the environment when vehicular traffic was stopped.
The final decision to reopen the Park remains with the Department of Horticulture, and neither the Cubbon Park Traffic Police Station nor the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority has any right or authority in this aspect. This is clearly ultra vires and illegal, the petitioner vehemently argues.
On these grounds, the plea prays for a direction to ban all vehicular traffic within and through Cubbon Park. Additionally, the plea also seeks to strike down the amended Directive dated September 9 as illegal and unconstitutional.
[Read plea here]