BERHAMPUR: The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Eastern Zone Bench, Kolkata, has slapped a penalty of `5 lakh fine each on Ganjam Collector, Excise secretary, Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB), member secretary and SPs of Ganjam and Berhampur for not closing the illegal liquor manufacturing units functioning in Ganjam district.
Seven cases were filed before the NGT with a prayer to close down illegal 79 liquor producing units in the district in 2016. Last year, the NGT had directed for closure of the Country Liquor Manufacturing Units (CLMUs) immediately.
The NGT maintained that no liquor unit of the present kind can be permitted to run without obtaining environment clearance. As per norms, it is mandatory for these units to take air and water pollution clearance before starting the production. It was alleged that CLMU were operating with licence from the Excise authorities but have not obtained permission from the OSPCB. NGT in its order said, “No liquor manufacturing unit, be it country or otherwise, shall be permitted to operate without EC and Consent to Operate notwithstanding the fact that they have obtained licence from the department of Excise.”
As per the order, CLMUs were closed for a couple of days and started functioning soon after, advocate Biranchi Narayan Mohapatra, applicant of the case, apprised the NGT.
In June last year, the NGT Bench had directed Chief Secretary, Ganjam Collector and the OSPCB to seal such liquor units which do not have the environmental and pollution clearances. The NGT also directed the OSPCB to furnish an affidavit. Accordingly, Bhagabat Prasad Pattajoshi, Law Officer of OSPCB in an affidavit stated that the Collector and SP were not cooperating to seal the units.
On December 5, 2017, the NGT expressed its displeasure over noncooperation of the officers and directed for closure of the liquor units by January 30, 2018. As the liquor units continued to operate even after the stipulated date, Mohapatra again appealed to the NGT.
The NGT bench comprising Justice SP Wangdi and judicial expert member Nagin Nanda in its order on April 24 said, “We are surprised to note the manner and the pace with which the State Government and the state pollution control board are proceeding on the matter. We therefore direct OSPCB, Ganjam district magistrate, SPs of Ganjam and Berhampur individually to deposit a sum of `5 lakh each which shall be considered as penalty.”
After the NGT order, Excise department has asked all the 79 liquor manufacturing units to close down and vacate the stocks by May 5 as the units would be sealed on the date.