The Bombay High Court today declined to relax the ban on the sale of decoration items made of thermocol for use in the forthcoming Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Maharashtra. A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla dismissed a petition filed by the Thermocol Fabricator and Decoration Association, seeking relaxation of the ban only for this year’s Ganesh festival to be celebrated in September.
Manufacture and use of a large number of plastic and thermocol items have been banned in Maharashtra. The petition claimed the association’s members would suffer huge financial losses if decoration material made of thermocol is not permitted to be sold in the market. The association also submitted an undertaking stating they will themselves dispose of the material.
The state government opposed the petition and said the last day to dispose of the banned items was June 23. Despite this, the petitioner (the association) did not dispose of their material and instead kept it as it is and is now seeking relaxation, it argued. The HC said it cannot ignore the government’s arguments, made during hearing on petitions challenging the plastic and thermocol ban, that 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste is generated each day and there is no proper scientific provision for its disposal.
“In our earlier order refusing to stay implementation of manufacture, sale and use of plastic and thermocol items, we had observed the court cannot ignore the adverse effects of plastic waste on the environment,” Justice Oka said today. The court also refused to accept the association’s undertaking that it would take back the sold thermocol material and dispose them off after the festival.
Over the years, thermocol items are extensively used to decorate Ganpati pandals (temporary structures set up to keep Lord Ganesh idols). On March 23 this year, the government issued a notification, imposing a ban on manufacture, use, sale, distribution and storage of all plastic materials like one-time use bags, spoons, plates, PET and PETE bottles and also thermocol items.
The notification was challenged in the HC by plastic, PET bottle and thermocol manufacturers and retailer associations on the grounds the ban was arbitrary, bad in law and violates their fundamental right to livelihood. In April, the same bench declined to stay the notification. The notification gave three months (till June 23) to the manufacturers, distributors and retailers to dispose of the existing stock of prohibited items.
“We have to consider the impact of plastic waste on the environment and the eco-system in general and the effect thereof on citizens. The harmful effects of plastic waste are multifold,” the court had said in its April order. Those violating the ban are fined and repeat offenders can be jailed.