The Karnataka High Court on Thursday held that the consent granted by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for the second stage development of the Karwar port in Uttara Kannada district is illegal (Baithkol Bandharu Nirashrithara v. Chief Executive Officer, Karnataka Maritime Board).
While doing so, the Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj opined that KSPCB had acted in a manner which defeated the very objective of setting up the Board.
"The very purpose of establishment of the KSPCB was to achieve the object of prevention and control of water and air pollution. The KSPCB is required to act as a watchdog against pollution of air and water. But, in the present case, we are constrained to observe that KSPCB acted in a manner that the very objective of the setting up of the board is frustrated," the Court held.
Further, the Bench noted that the jurisdictional environmental officer had not inquired into the extent of possible air and water pollution which may be caused by the project and in what manner the project’s proponent was going to deal with the pollution and control it.
“Apart from the shocking manner in which the KSPCB dealt with the applications made by the port officer for grant of consent for establishment, the entire process is vitiated because of the non-application of mind, non-consideration of the relevant factors, and the illegality in the decision-making process,” the Court said.
The judgment came on a PIL petition filed by the Uttara Kannada District Fishermen’s Association Forum, Karwar challenging the consent granted by the KSPCB for the second stage development of the Karwar port.
Interestingly, except for finding illegality in the KSPCB process, the Bench rejected all the other objections raised by the petitioners against the project.
The Court, therefore, allowed KSPCB to take a fresh decision for grant of consent within a month by adhering to the provisions of the laws related to control of air and water pollution.
It also accepted the undertaking given by the KPSCB to carry out a fresh inspection and process to consider the application for grant of consent made by the port officer, Karwar.
In this regard, the Court also directed the government to ensure all the terms and conditions of the Environment Clearance granted in January, 2019 by the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority are scrupulously followed and implemented while carrying out the project.