This Article was written by Kriti Bhatia a student of University Institute of Legal Studies, Punjab University.
Ganga-The holy river of India provides us not only with bounty of water but also is a reservoir of minerals, which eventually ends up as providing employment to a number of people in India. It is the most pious and highly worshipped river in India. But due to the modern living style of people it has been highly polluted and still such damage is continuous. Considering the amount of pollution and the status of this river a new body has been set up by the government of India known as NATIONAL GANGA RIVER BASIN AUTHORITY (NGRBA).
The Central Government, by a notification dated 20.2.2009, has set up ‘National Ganga River Basin Authority’ (NGRBA)as an empowered planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating authority for the Ganga River, in exercise of the powers conferred under the Environment (Protection) Act,1986. The Prime Minister is ex-officio Chairperson of the Authority, and it has as its members, the Union Ministers Concerned and the Chief Ministers of states through which Ganga flows, viz., Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, among others. The objective of the Authority is to ensure effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga by adopting a holistic approach with the river basin as the unit of planning. The functions of the Authority include all measures necessary for planning and execution of programms for abatement of pollution in the Ganga in keeping with the sustainable development needs. The first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) was held on 5th October, 2009 under the Chairmanship of the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
The mission of the organization is to safeguard the drainage basin which feeds water into the Ganges by protecting it from pollution or overuse. The government has tried all their efforts to make this body effective but can it be said that such body holds authority to make its own decisions and laws which can be notified and implemented through notifications, orders and circulars? Studying about the powers gives us some idea about the status of NGRBA.
Following are the powers of NGRBA:
NGRBA has the power, combined with regulatory and developmental functions, to take all such measures and discharge functions as it deems necessary or expedient for effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga in keeping with sustainable development needs. Such measures include following matters, namely:-
- a) Development of river basin management plan and regulation of activities aimed at prevention, control and abatement of pollution in the river Ganga to maintain its water quality, and to take such other measures relevant to river ecology and management in the Ganga Basin States.
- b) Maintenance of minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmental sustainable development.
- c) Measures necessary for planning, financing and execution of programs for abatement of pollution in the river Ganga including augmentation of sewerage infrastructure, catchment area treatment, protection of flood plains, creating public awareness and such other measures for promoting environmentally sustainable river conservation.
- d) Collection, analysis and dissemination of information relating to environmental pollution in the river Ganga.
- e) Investigations and research regarding problems of environmental pollution and conservation of the river Ganga.
- f) Creation of special purpose vehicles, as appropriate, for implementation of works vested with the Authority.
- g) Promotion of water conservation practices including recycling and reuse, rain water harvesting, and decentralized sewage treatment systems.
- h) Monitoring and reviewing of the implementation of various programmes or activities taken up for prevention, control and abatement of pollution in the river Ganga, and
- i) Issuance of directions under section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (29 of 1986) for the purpose of exercising and performing all or any of the above functions and to take such other measures as the Authority deems necessary or expedient for achievement of its objectives.
- f) The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for the purpose of exercising and performing these functions and for achievement of its objectives.
Besides the above mentioned powers of NGRBA, it has also been bestowed with the power of passing notification, circular and order, because without them these powers are hollow as then there would be no ground for the execution. Notifications, Circulars and Orders can be considered as the essentials of any Government body. Notifications are the letters that notify regarding new laws. Circulars provide for the new laws made and orders look for their implementation.
The question here is whether those notifications, circulars and order have any binding authority over the state? The answer to this question is Yes, the notifications, circulars and order have binding authority on the state which can be inferred from the following case, CCE v. Dhiren Chemical Industries (2002 2 SCC 127). The judgment of the case goes like “ regardless of the interpretation that we have placed on then said phrase, if there are Circulars which have been issued by the Central Board of Excise & Customs which place a different interpretation upon the said phrase, that interpretation will be binding upon the Revenue.” Meaning thereby, (regardless of the interpretations given by the court in the case), if the Central Board of Excise and Customs may give any other interpretation in the form of circulars, that interpretation would be binding.
It was made a settled law that circulars issued by the departments are binding over the state in the case CCE v. Dhiren Chemical Industries (2002 2 SCC 127) whose reflection could be seen in the case Demosha Chemicals Limited v. CCE where the circular of the CCE was considered as a binding law and case was decided with its reference.
Usha Martin Industries Case (1997) 7 SCC 47 initially overruled the intent of the notification but eventually this case became the base for CCE v. Dhiren Chemical Industries (2002 2 SCC 127) and hence it was decided that notices passed by the department is binding over the state.
NGRBA is also a government body and can be considered as a department. So, from the precedent it can be clearly stated that any notification, order and circulars passed by such departments are binding over the state hence even the notifications, circulars and orders of this body also has a binding effect over the state and not even any other authority can change its effect.