The Bombay High Court today questioned the Maharashtra government’s decision of giving three months time to manufacturers to dispose of the PET bottles but not extending the same relief to the public using them. A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla sought to know from the state government if the three months time has been extended for the public too. “What if a common man is found with such a bottle? He or she will not know if the said bottle meets the criteria laid down by the government,” Justice Oka said.
“If the manufacturers have been given three months to dispose (of) their existing stock, has the same been extended to the public also?” he asked. Government counsel E P Bharucha then said the people found with plastic bottles which do not meet the criteria would be penalised. “The three months time granted to manufacturers is so that they can recycle or dispose of the existing stock of plastic bottles. The state has to start the ban somewhere,” Bharucha said. The high court was hearing petitions filed by manufacturers and retailers of plastic, PET bottles and thermocol, challenging a March 23 notification issued by the state government.
The notification had imposed a ban on manufacture, sale, use, distribution and storage of several plastic goods and materials, including polythene bags, plastic plates, cups, spoons and forks, thermocol and PET bottles. The high court today admitted the petitions for final hearing, but said it would pass an order on interim relief tomorrow. The petitioners had sought an interim stay on the implementation of the notification. The government had yesterday issued a fresh notification by which it revoked the ban on plastic bottles, but on one condition that the manufacturers have to establish a recycling chain by setting up reverse vending machines and tie-up with recyclers.
The notification also laid down certain criteria pertaining to the quality of bottles. As per the notification, the manufacturers have been given three months to dispose of the existing stock. The government had filed an affidavit justifying its decision, and said the plastic waste was a serious environmental hazard affecting the health of human beings and animals. The affidavit had also cited deaths of a whale, fish and cows due to consumption of plastic waste, as one of main reasons behind the decision to ban plastic materials.
The petitioners had said the ban order was arbitrary, passed without following the principles of natural justice, and also violated the fundamental right to carry on a trade or business.