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Written by: Chehak Goyal (Intern)

Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

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The Division Bench in Sikkim High Court comprising of Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Meenakshi Madan Rai heard a Public Interest Litigation concerning the issue of extraction of the groundwater by 22 pharmaceutical companies, though sufficient surface water was available in the state of Sikkim.

The PIL brought the attention of the Court towards the serious issue of the misuse of groundwater in the state. The Sikkim High Court was not satisfied by the decision of the Central Water Ground Board to grant permission to 22 companies to use groundwater when sufficient surface water was available in the State and sought an explanation from the Board.

The Bench asked a pivotal question from the Board, β€œWhy after having sufficient surface water, the necessity of extraction of groundwater arose?” The Board argued that they gave these permissions after these companies complied with the requisite conditions. But, after deep delving into the matter, the Honorable Bench observed that the permissions so granted for extracting the groundwater were conditional, but there was nothing available on record to show if those conditions have been complied with by the industries and the Regional Authorities have recorded its satisfaction or not.

Further, adding to the amazement of the High Court was the fact that the permissions have been granted to these companies during the pendency of the Public Interest Litigation without mentioning the fact that such permissions are subject to conditions of the orders passed by the High Court. The Court said, β€œIt appears that the Central spring water Board and its Authorities haven’t specified the rationale for granting no objection for extracting the groundwater and without such reason conditional permissions were granted. The conditions so stipulated in those permissions are complied or not it’s not on record, however, we cannot appreciate such functioning of the Authority.”

The learned counsel representing the Board in the matter argued that those 22 companies have again applied for renewal and in most of the cases renewal has been permitted. The Court said that that the Central Ground Water Board constituted under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is bound to comply with the provisions of Section 3(2) and the powers of Section 5. Nothing has been suggested to point out true compliance in spirit by them or their Officers.

After the whole argument, the Honorable Court concluded that the permission to use groundwater, when there is sufficient surface water available must be subjected to strict rules and regulations and permissions can only be granted to the companies when they are in 100% compliance with those rules. The Court observed that any of the permission of extraction of the groundwater granted to the industries within the State must plan recording the satisfaction and by assigning the reason and just in case permission/renewal was found in violation of any conditions, action taken was required to be specified to the Court. The Court also made it clear that non-compliance with these orders will be strictly held responsible. Learned Counsel of the Board is requested to notify the aforesaid facts to all the Regional Officers for its compliance. Hence, Matter will be heard next on 10-09-2021.

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