Thu, 19 May 2022

New Delhi [India], January 26 (ANI): The National Green Tribunal has suggested competent authorities who are regulating and enforcing PMLA, to take action against industries, which caused huge damage to the environment as also the inhabitants.

"It is incumbent upon the competent authorities regulating and enforcing PMLA 2002 to take action against such violators, if not against small violators, at least against substantial resourceful bigger proponents whose violations are liable to cause huge damage to the environment as also the inhabitants. At least matters of Large-Scale Industries (LSI) and Medium Scale Industries (MSI) scale level industries should have been examined by the competent authority under provisions of PMLA 2002," said the NGT.

The observation came from an NGT bench headed by its chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.

The NGT bench noted that when anyone violates environmental norms, discharge pollutants causing pollution, and continue commercial activities for commercial gains, then such activities attract provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

The offences under environmental norms have been included in the Schedule to PMLA 2002 in paragraphs 23, 25,26,27 that have been inserted by Section 30 of PML (Amendment) Act, 2012 which came into force on February 15, the tribunal pointed out, adding that all these provisions relating to offences under various Environmental Statutes have been placed in part A of the Schedule.

The observation was made by the tribunal, which was hearing applications filed by four applicants namely; Akhil Bhartiya Mangela Samaj, Ashok Thakoji Tandel, Narendra Parushram Naik and Vaibhav Ashok Vaze. The applicants raised grievance of discharge of untreated effluents into the Arabian Sea at Navapur, and into creeks and 'nallas' in the vicinity, in flagrant violations of provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, by industries established in the industrial area, set up by Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) at Tarapur.

The tribunal noted that in the present case when environmental norms were not followed by not operating Effluent Treatment Plan (ETP) or by discharging partially or totally untreated pollutants or by causing other violations, this resulted in the commissioning of Scheduled offence. The revenue earned by committing such crime is proceeds of crime as defined in PMLA 2002 and by showing it part of business proceeds in accounts amounts to projecting or claiming it as untainted property and the entire activity is covered by Section 3 of PMLA 2002.

It appears that initially PMLA 2002 was enacted so as to cover activities of terrorists, illegal trafficking in narcotics, enemies of the country etc., applying to a very limited number of statutes, Enforcement Directorate had been taking action under PMLA 2002 in a narrow sphere, the Court noted.

"It has forgotten to take note of the fact that scope of PMLA 2002 has been enhanced or widened, a lot, at least after amendment Act of 2012 w.e.f. 15.02.2013," the court noted adding that more than eight and half years have passed but not a single action has been taken by Enforcement Directorate against violators committing offencesunder environmental statutes which have been included in the Schedule, part A of PMLA 2002.

"The offences under Environmental Acts, as such, are non-cognizable but under PMLA 2002, offences are cognizable. Since competent authority has never resorted to proceed against violators of environmental Statutes despite committing offences thereunder, which are included in PMLA 2002, this inaction has encouraged polluters to continue violation with impunity, " the NGT said.

"Parliament's intention of treating environmental violations as very serious offences is writ large from the fact that, offences under environmental laws as noticed above, have been included in Schedule, Part A of PMLA 2002 yet enforcement machinery has frustrated entire attempt, " the NGT said.

"Enforcement Directorate may examine the matter for appropriate action, in the light of PMLA 2002 as amended from time to time, particularly Amendment of 2012," the NGT said.

The NGT also pulled up MPCB officials for a negligent, lax approach, careless aptitude, non-bona fide conduct and lack of devotion to duty.

The NGT also issued various directions including that committee to continue for a period of one year to monitor compliance conditions in TIA MIDC by all stakeholders and submit quarterly reports to Registrar General, NGT.

The NGT directed to pay Rs Two Crores to MIDC as compensation and said that the amount of compensation shall be utilised for remediation/restoration of the environment, and healthcare activities. (ANI)

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