The Centre today claimed before Delhi High Court that manufacturers of CFL bulbs, mostly multinational firms, do not want to adhere to the new e-waste management rules in India though they complied with similar regulations in Europe and other countries.
The government told a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal that these new rules were in accordance with the international convention and these mercury containing lights cannot be allowed to be thrown in open as it has an adverse impact on the environment.
“Most of these manufacturers are multinational companies and are complying with all such rules in Europe and other countries. But in India, they do not want to comply,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the bench.
Countering the submissions, senior advocate P Chidambaram, who appeared for the manufacturers, said it was “impossible” for them to comply with these new rules which required them to collect from consumers and dispose of fluorescent and other mercury containing lamps at their ‘end- of-life’.
“It (new rules) is impossible to comply with. It says we should go to the purchaser and take tubelights or CFLs when they intend to discard it. You (Centre) cannot ask us to do an impossible thing,” he said.
Chidambaram said the government cannot compare India with other countries and the new rules were “arbitrary” as no firm would be able to do business like this.
During the hearing, the bench observed, “All of us are concerned with the damage to the environment.”
The bench said it would pass an order on September 28 on the application by manufacturers’ association seeking stay on operation of one of the rules of the government’s E-Waste Management Rules, 2016, providing for ‘extended producer responsibility – authorisation of procedures’ qua fluorescent and other mercury containing lamps.
CFL producers like Philips Lighting, Havells, Surya and the Electric Lamp and Component Manufacturers’ Association have challenged the rules which was notified on March 23.
During the arguments, the ASG told the bench that no firm would be prosecuted for at least seven months as they can apply to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) within three months regarding their plans for disposal of these lights and CPCB would consider the same within four months.
“As far as the urgency shown is concerned, no prosecution is going to take place in the next seven months,” he said.
However, Chidambaram said there was no obligation for the consumers in the rules and these firms should not be forced to apply to the CPCB.
“I (firms) cannot give up plan for this as it is arbitrary and impossible to comply with,” he said.
ASG Jain told the bench that these firms cannot seek stay on the operation of rules.
The Centre had earlier told the court that producers of CFL bulbs were responsible for collecting them on expiry to check leakage of e-waste to informal sector or unauthorised players under the new e-waste management rules.
The firms have contended that the ‘end-of-life’ factor, which is the “trigger” for collection of bulbs, is “uncertain” as “such an event lies in hands of the consumer”.
They have claimed that collection of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) was the responsibility of the local and municipal bodies which has now been “illegally shifted” upon them.
The Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change has defended the government’s decision to make the CFL producers responsible for collection, saying this was similar to the companies’ scheme providing Rs 10 discount on sale of new CFL or LED lamp on return of the old one.
Opposing the government’s submissions, the petitioners have said that their Rs 10 discount scheme was introduced only to assist the local bodies in achieving the objective of collection.
They have said that once a product is sold, they cannot impose restrictions on consumer to return it at end-of-life as ownership of that product is with the buyer.