: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the Chairman, Pollution Control Board, Chief Wildlife Warden and Chief Conservator of Forests to issue necessary directions for enforcement of all notifications and court orders restricting the use of plastic in Sabarimala and its surrounding places.

The Bench, comprising Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice P. Bhavadasan, also ordered that the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and the pilgrims would be bound by such directions. The court also directed the TDB, Pollution Control Board and the State government to put up boards in appropriate places asking pilgrims to abide by the directions.

The court pointed out that as far as the use of plastic carry bags was concerned, the order of this court governed the field.

The order stipulated that the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags, including cups and bottles, shall not be less than 30 microns. This limit had necessarily to be enforced having regard to the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, Recycled Plastic Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999, Plastic Manufactures (Sale and Usage) Rules, 1999 and notifications issued by the Pollution Control Board.

The court observed that the State government was entitled to put in place necessary regulations and restrictions to ensure that public order, morality and health were in no way impaired by the free profession, practice and propagation of religion.

The court said that it was also the fundamental duty of every citizen under Article 51A (g) of the Constitution to protect and improve the natural environment such as wildlife and rivers.

The court also took note of the statement of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest that littering of plastic bottles and other materials in the forest area would endanger wildlife in the area. The court observed that it was desirable that the pilgrims were made aware of the penal provisions for violating the restrictions imposed on the use of plastics. Penal action could be taken against the agencies which were entrusted with the handling of litter and municipal waste.

The court also directed the State Government, Pollution Control Board, Travancore Devaswom Board and Pathanamthitta District Collector to file separate reports regarding action taken in terms of this order after the conclusion of the ensuing Sabarimala season.

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