CHENNAI: In a glaring violation of provisions of the Right to Information Act (RTI), the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has not uploaded consent orders issued to industries on its website for more than two years.
The board had put up consent orders only till December 2014. All State pollution control boards are legally bound to update data, be it consent to operate, establish or authorise grant under hazardous waste management rules and biomedical waste management rules in their respective official websites immediately so as to enable general public to challenge them, if found in violation of any statutory laws.
As per ‘proactive disclosure’ Section 4(1)(b)(xiii) of RTI Act, recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by the Public Authority should be made available online, and Section 4(2) requires every Public Authority to provide data “suo moto to the public at regular interval” by various means of communications including internet.
In fact, there is an order from the Tamil Nadu Information Commission dated July 14, 2008, where petitioner Nityanand Jayaraman, noted environmentalist and writer, has filed a case accusing the TNPCB of similar mischief. The commission had upheld petitioner’s view and directed the board to upload all documents on the web. The commission was even critical about TNPCB operations, and noted that “it seldom has any regard for the RTI Act,” the order reads, a copy of which is available in the TNIC website.
RTI activist Shweta Narayan told Express that it was criminal on part of TNPCB to hide information from public scrutiny. “It’s a deliberate ploy. Under the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, we can challenge the order issued by a Public Authority only within 30 days. Any sensitive orders are not uploaded, and public lose rights to challenge them. And, this is not the first time, the board is resorting to such a practice. We have written letters to chairman of the TNPCB in 2013 and 2015 for similar misdeeds,” she said.
In the Research Foundation for Science versus Union of India case pertaining to hazardous waste dumping in India, the SC in 2003 passed an order wherein the apex court had directed the State Pollution Control Boards to take steps to ensure that relevant important information should be displayed on notice boards and newspaper and communicated through radio, television and the Internet. “The SPCBs should ensure that all industries display online data outside the main factory gate, on quantity and nature of hazardous chemicals being used in the plant, water and air emissions and solid wastes generated within the factory premises. If such data is not made available, the unit should be asked to show cause or even be asked to close down,” the order reads.