Conviction rate shows KSPCB is a paper tiger

Garbage littered on the bank of Horamavu Agara lake in Bengaluru.— File Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Only 25 convictionssince 1989

Do threats by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) of criminal cases against polluters carry any bite?

The numbers suggest otherwise. Since the formation of the Board, and since the first cases were filed in 1989, KSPCB has managed just 25 convictions – cementing the perception among social activists and officials that it remains a paper tiger.In perspective, barely one in 10 cases taken up by the KSPCB has resulted in offenders being booked. In the remaining cases, the KSPCB could not substantiate its charges in court.

“This is dismal. It shows the complicity of legal officers who do not follow up with the courts. Field officers are indifferent, do not substantiate the charges with evidence… cases have become means of extortion and corruption,” alleged Wg. Cdr G.B. Athri (retd), who has filed at least six major cases against industries and local civic bodies with the KSPCB. The cases, filed three years ago, are still in court.

Apart from the low conviction rate, the snail’s pace of case disposal is another sore point. Nearly 60 per cent of the cases are yet to be disposed – some pending since 1997.

While a majority of the instances have seen the KPSCB go after private industries, companies and individuals, some cases involve civic bodies for their alleged role in aggravating pollution in urban centres.

The KSPCB had filed four cases against Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (for allowing sewage into drinking water sources); 11 against Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (garbage handling, allowing waste water into drinking water sources); and a further 35 cases against urban local bodies.

“There have been failures and these definitely affect the image of the KSPCB. We are reviewing cases and getting legal experts to train our officers,” said Lakshman, Chairman, KSPCB.

While dismissing allegations of corruption in lower-levels of the KSPCB, he said a review of cases revealed faults in presenting evidence in courts.

“We are going to appeal against acquittals in various cases in higher courts. We are getting good advocates to present these cases while data collection is being strengthened,” he said.
Source - The Hindu

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