The Supreme Court on Thursday said that State is duty bound to restore the ecological imbalance and there must be some stringent measures which may have deterrent effect so that the violators may think twice before causing damage to the nature.
The top court said that at the time when large scale damages are being caused to nature, it is of the opinion that the violators cannot be permitted to go scot-free on payment of penalty only.
It said that sand and mines are public property and the State being its custodian should be more sensitive to protect the environment and ecological balance.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah made the observations in the verdict related to illegal sand mining in Madhya Pradesh and interpretation of section 23A of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 under which offences under the law can be compounded by paying up the penalty.
The top court said that since the provisions of section 23A of MMDR Act is not challenged, the provision stands and it leave the issue of payment of penalty for causing damages to the nature "to the wisdom of the legislatures and the concerned states".
The bench said that it is true that by permitting the violators to compound the offences under the MMDR Act, the State may get the revenue and the same shall be on the principle of person who causes the damage shall have to compensate the damage and shall have to pay the penalty like the principle of polluters to pay in case of damage to the environment.
It said that in view of the large scale damages being caused to the nature and as observed and held by this Court in the 2014 case of GNCTD versus Sanjay, the policy and object of MMDR Act and Rules are the result of an increasing awareness of the compelling need to restore the serious ecological imbalance and to stop the damages being caused to the nature.
"...when the violations like this are increasing and the serious damage is caused to the nature and the earth and it also affects the ground water levels etc. and it causes severe damage as observed by this Court in the case of Sanjay (2014), we are of the opinion that the violators cannot be permitted to go scot free on payment of penalty only", the bench said.
It said that "there must be some stringent provisions which may have deterrent effect so that the violators may think twice before committing such offences and before causing damage to the earth and the nature".
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