Subhash Dutta has been trying to draw the attention of the authorities to the steadily escalating civic problems in Howah since 1980. The focal point of his crusade has been the ‘killing’ of water bodies. The Samiti has filed a dozen PIL in the Calcutta HC, seeking intervention. However, “The orders given by the court were not positive, as they failed to comprehend the various dimensions of the problem”, says Dutta.
So the Samiti knocked the doors of the SC. Interestingly, the existing Inland Fisheries Act in West Bengal already prohibits filling up of wetlands in all parts of the state. But the powerful land mafia in Kolkata has been systematically destroying the lakes, in blatant violation of the law.
In April 1995, Subhash Dutta on behalf of the Howarh Gantantrik Nagarik Samiti (HGNS), a Kolkata-based non-governmental organisation, filed PIL in the SC against the Government of West Bengal and the civic authorities of Howrah, a satellite township near Kolkata.
In his 486-pages petition, along with other civic issues, Dutta pleaded for judicial intervention for protection of 110 urban water tanks located in Howrah, SC referred the matter back to the Calcutta High Court (HC) on April 16, 1996. In a historic move, it directed the HC to form a special ‘green bench’—for the first time in India— to deal with the petition. The impact was spectacular.
The case (WP of 1995) has been decided. . Followings are some of the highlights of the court proceedings.
In April, Subhash Dutta files the PIL. In the Calcutta HC
During the first hearing in June, the matter was not heard by the HC on the grounds of non receipt of papers from the SC.
In September, The HC issues its final verdict. The final verdict of the HC banned the filling up of urban water bodies in Howarh. The court directed the Howrah municipal corporation to list ponds under the jurisdiction of all the police stations in the area. The officers-in-charge have been given the responsibility to protect the water bodies in their respective regions.