Case Summary: U.P. Pollution Control Board v. Modi Distillery and Others
Citation: 2008 INSC 2161 (12 December 2008)
The term “environment” is most commonly used to describe a “natural” situation, and it refers to the whole of all living and non-living objects that make up a life form, or a group of life forms. The term “environment” refers to all of the elements, factors, and circumstances that influence the growth and development of a particular creature.
Natural issues in India are complex, and administration techniques must be developed to achieve coordination between various practical divisions. To do so, political leaders must be persuaded of the importance of instituting environmental protection measures.
Facts of the Case:
- Under the Companies Act of 1956, Messers Modi Industries Limited is a legal entity. It is a large corporation with a wide range of commercial activities. It had constructed an industrial plant called Messers Modi Distillery at Modi Nagar, Ghaziabad, prior to the Act’s inception, which was engaged in the manufacture and sale of industrial alcohol.
- The said industrial unit discharges its highly noxious and polluted trade effluents into the Kali River through the Kadrabad Drain, which is a stream within the meaning of Section 2(j) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and thus causes continuous pollution of the said stream without the consent of the Board, and thus falls within the purview of Section 26 of the Act.
- Every existing industry must now get the Board’s permission before discharging its trade effluent into a stream, well, sewer, or on land under the provisions of Section 26, as modified. The deadline for submitting an application to the Board for Board consent by an existing industry had been extended to December 31, 1981.
- The Company was required to submit an application for Board consent in the prescribed form, along with the prescribed consent fee and the particulars, in accordance with the procedure outlined in Sections 25(1) and 26 of the Act. On March 27, 1981, the Company’s industrial unit, Messers Modi Distillery, applied to the Board for permission to discharge its trade effluent.
- The Board, in a letter dated July 30, 1981, declined to give the consent sought in the public interest since the application was judged to be lacking in several areas and the said industrial unit lacked suitable treatment plans for its highly polluted trade effluents.
- Following that, the Board issued a notice under S. 20 of the Act directing the Company to provide certain information regarding the particulars and names of the Managing Director, Directors, and other persons responsible for the Company’s conduct, but the respondents failed to provide the information requested.
- The Board filed a complaint against the defendants in the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ghaziabad, on October 21, 1983, under Section 44 of the Act. Regrettably, the complaint was written in a clumsy manner. In paragraph 2, it was stated that Messers Modi Distillery, i.e., the industrial unit, was a company under Section 47 of the Act that had been knowingly and wilfully discharging highly noxious and filthy trade effluents into the Kali River, which is a stream within the meaning of Section 2(j) of the Act, via the Kadrabad Drain, causing continual contamination of the said stream.
- The respondents do not appear to have responded to the notice served on them by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate. The learned Magistrate issued process to the respondents after recording the statement of S. N. Pandey, the Board’s Legal Assistant. Respondents Nos. 2, 3, and 4, namely, K. N. Modi, K. K. Modi, and M. L. Modi, the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Managing Director, respectively, of Messers Modi Industries Limited, filed a petition in the High Court under Section 397 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, claiming that they had been wronged.
The appeal raises the question of whether the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Managing Director, and members of the Board of Directors are liable to be prosecuted under Section 47 of the Act in the absence of a prosecution of the Company controlling the above-mentioned industrial unit.
When a company commits an offence under this Act, everyone who was in charge of, and responsible to the company for the conduct, of the company’s business at the time the offence was committed, as well as the company, is deemed guilty of the offence and is liable to be prosecuted and punished accordingly.
- While hearing Dr. Bhupendra Kumar Modi’s case, the High Court looked over the Board’s complaint. According to it, it is nowhere indicated in the 6 complaints, and there is also no evidence on record that Dr. Bhupendra Kumar Modi was in control and responsible to the Company for the operation of the business during the relevant time.
- The High Court further found that there was no particular allegation that respondent No.1 was in command of the Company at the time or was in charge of its day-to-day operations, or that the offence was committed with his agreement or connivance. The prosecution against the first respondent, in this case, was quashed as a result of the High Court’s decision. The High Court made it clear in the same decision that the prosecution is allowed to pursue additional people named in the complaint.
- The complaint also states that on September 29, 1982, the Company applied to the Board for consent to discharge its trade effluent, which was received by the Board on October 4, 1982, and that after considering all factors, conditional consent order No. 83/170 dated January 22, 1983, was issued in favour of the Company.
- It is stated in paragraph 21 of the detailed judgement that the Chairman, Directors, and Secretaries are particularly acknowledged to be the brains behind the operation. Modi Carpets’ nerve center, where the company’s business is conducted which has been dumping its industrial effluents into a stream for which they are to be compensated under Section 44 of the Act, read with Section 47 of the Act, will result in a penalty.
- Despite the fact that the Board issued a consent order, the lawsuit clearly states that the Company has not met those terms. In those circumstances, the appellant-Board, through its officers, filed a complaint against the persons in charge of the day-to-day operations and decision-making process in the interest of public health.
- By special leave, the said case was directed against the judgement and order of the High Court of Allahabad dated 16.05.1984 setting aside, in its revisional jurisdiction, an order of the CJM, Ghaziabad dated 03.11.1983 directing issue of process against the respondents on a complaint filed by the appellant Pollution Control Board under Section 44 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
- The complaint is to be taken up by the Special Judicial Magistrate (Pollution) and dealt with in line with the law. If the first respondent, in this case, requests that his personal presence in court be waived after his initial appearance, the Special Court may exempt him from further appearances by applying any condition that the Court deems appropriate.
- In light of the foregoing, we reverse the High Court’s verdict and order the Special Judicial Magistrate (Pollution) to proceed with the matter in line with the law and to resolve it as quickly as feasible. We want to be clear that we haven’t said anything about the merits of the complaint’s substance, and it’s up to the Special Court to decide that. The Criminal Appeal is allowed