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An argument was raised by the petitioners that the ban sought to be imposed by way of the notification banning single use plastic was only on single-use plastic items as a whole, which comprise only plastic and not those items wherein the plastic is also used as a layer or otherwise.
The Rajasthan High Court recently observed that plastic-coated sheets which cannot be used multiple times would fall within the prohibited commodities mentioned under the August 12, 2021 notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.
Through the said notification, the manufacturing, import, stocking, distributorship, sale and use of certain identified single-use plastic commodities was prohibited with effect from 1st July 2022.
The bench of Justice Sameer Jain was hearing a batch of petitions filed challenging the show cause notices issued by the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board (RSPCB) whereby the RSPCB had directed the closure of the petitioners' businesses.
The petitioners submitted that they were involved in the manufacturing of the raw materials of ‘paper cups with plastic coating/laminated paper cups’ which was also used for the production of ‘plates’, ‘glasses’ and such other items made of paper but along with a plastic coating/lamination.
Last year, the RSPCB issued show cause notices to the petitioner-firms emanating from under Section 31A of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Section 33A of Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 for the intended closure of the petitioner-firms for failing to satisfy the amendments effectuated by way of the notification dated August 12, 2021.
However, before the high court, the petitioner firms argued that the nature of the products so manufactured by the petitioner-firms was different from the specific commodities/items banned under the notification dated August 12, 2021.
The counsel for the petitioners contended that subject notification vide sub-rule (2) of Rule 4, sought to prohibit the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of certain 19 identified ‘single-use plastic’ commodities, of which, the product manufactured by the petitioner-firm i.e. plastic laminated papers, which are used as raw materials, did not a constitute a part of.
He argued that the ban sought to be imposed by way of the subject notification was only on single use plastic items as a whole, which comprise only of plastic and not those items wherein plastic is also used as a layer or otherwise.
In essence, the products must be constituted purely of plastic and not mixed with any other substance, the counsel contended.
Regarding this, the high court noted that the product being manufactured by the petitioners i.e. ‘plastic coated paper’, comprised 95% paper and 5% of a thin layer of low-density Polyethylene (LDPE), wherein the LDPE layer was used to provide water resistance to the said sheet so produced.
Therefore, taking into account the definition of a ‘single-use plastic commodity’ as provided under Rule 3(va) vide subject notification dated 12.08.2021, the court held that the said rule categorically defines ‘single-use plastic commodity’ as a ‘plastic’ item intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled, read with the definition of ‘plastic’ as provided under Rule 3(o) which defines ‘plastic’ as any material containing LDPE, amongst others, as an essential ingredient.
"...it becomes abundantly clear that the product being manufactured by the petitioner-firm is a ‘plastic’ commodity under Rule 3(o), which further read with Rule 3(va), makes the same a ‘single-use plastic commodity’, on account of the fact that the plastic coated sheets as manufactured by the petitioner-firm, cannot be used multiple times and is rather, used in a disposable manner after its intended one-time use is exhausted," court held.
Accordingly, court opined that a combined reading of Rule 3(o), Rule 3(va) and Rule 4(2) of the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016, as amended by the subject notification dated 12.08.2021, drew a clear inference that the product of the petitioner was well within the prohibited commodities mentioned under Rule 4(2) (b).
In view of the above, the high court dismissed the petitions while directing the Regulatory Authority, provided under the statute, to carry out the directions issued by way of the subject notification dated 12.08.2021, in letter as well as in spirit.
Case Title: M/s Khandelwal Paper Industries and Another v. Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board and connected matters.
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