TN: HC orders to return containers from US

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Chennai, Nov 22: The Madras High Court on Friday, Nov 21 ordered to send back the 40 containers of hazardous municipal waste imported from the United States and rotting at Tuticorin Port for three years.

While dismissing a writ petition by ITC, the division bench comprising Justice Elipipe Dharmarao and Justice S Tamilvanan said, ''The cargo is municipal waste shipped to India, which cannot be sold or allowed to be disposed of in any manner in India, since it will cause danger to Mother Nature, as has been correctly observed by the Customs Department and Pollution Control Board.'' The bench also rapped ITC Limited for importing the ''undesired cargo''. The Judges directed the company to clear out the waste at its own cost and slapped a litigation cost of Rs 50,000. Judges also asked the Centre to initiate civil and criminal proceedings against officials who masterminded such illegal ideas within a period of 12 weeks.

ITC sourced the material from US-based Evergreen Specialities, which was meant to supply 'mixed wastepaper'in August 2005. But on examination, the Customs found that consignment contained plastic carry bags, pet bottles, used clothes, shoes, metal cans and dirty liquid emitting foul smell.

Officials said hazardous municipal waste had characteristics of Eco-toxic and infectious substances.

The American company then conceded that the consignment was sent to India by mistake and ITC shipped it to Ajman in UAE, only to have it returned with a warning. After the cargo returned to Tuticorin, a single judge bench of High Court passed a consent order and appointed a committee to inspect and suggest a solution. However,in November 2007, when the committee recommended re-export of containers to the US, ITC preferred present appeal.

Slamming ITC for negligence, the Judges asked it to de-stuff the garbage and hand over empty containers to the Tuticorin-based company.

The division bench also flayed the company for making an about-turn after the committee's recommendations.

The bench said ''It is really painful, rather pathetic, to note that developed countries are searching for dumping yards in developing countries to dump municipal waste to enjoy a pollution free surroundings in their countries''.

UNI

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