As a first step, the court appointed Bina Madhavan, Maneka Guruswamy and D.V. Raghvanshi as “advocate commissioners” and asked them to visit all important cities of Rajasthan, which had issued a notification in 2012 banning such bags.
The three have been asked to wrap up the inspection within a month.
The bench also directed Karnataka’s principal secretary, environment, to be present in court at the next hearing as it was not satisfied with the affidavit the state had filed on banning polythene bags.
The directives came two-and-a-half years after the court had in May 2012 asked the Centre and all states and Union territories to respond to a PIL filed by Karuna Society, while describing the peril from plastic as a threat greater than the atom bomb.
The NGO had sought a ban on plastic bags, particularly those less than 40 micron thick, as thousands of cows and buffaloes had either died or been taken ill after consuming them.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan told a bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri that post-mortem reports and surgeries over the past few years had revealed that plastic waste in the stomach of cows and buffaloes at times weighed over 50kg.
“Is there any seriousness on the part of the governments? Imagine the way in which cows are suffering. You people (officials) sit in air-conditioned chambers and say we are implementing it,” Chief Justice Dattu said.
The thicker a plastic bag, the more likely it is to be recycled and won’t end up in the garbage dump.
Justice Dattu said the court would examine how far the ban, sought by the NGO under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, had been implemented. The act, passed by Parliament, empowers authorities to ban substances that pose a threat to the environment and people.
The bench adjourned the matter by two weeks.