Foiling the last-ditch attempts made by an association of entrepreneurs to obtain a stay on the State government’s move to ban manufacture, sale, as well as use of certain ‘use-and-throw’ plastic products from January 1, the Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed a writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Pondy Plastic Association.
A Division Bench of Justices S. Vaidyanathan and P.T. Asha refused to interfere with a Government Order issued on June 25 listing the products that were to be banned from New Year. The judges went a step ahead and opined that even products exempted under the GO should be banned to make the State completely plastic-free.
After going through the GO produced by Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian, the judges found the government had banned only plastic carry bags, plastic sheets used for food wrapping, dining table spreads, plates, plastic-coated tea cups, tumblers, water sachets, plastic straws and plastic flags, irrespective of their thickness. However, the same GO, through a proviso, granted exemption to the use of “plastic bags which constitute or form an integral part of packaging in which goods are sealed prior to use at manufacturing/processing units”. It meant that food items such as chips and savouries could be sold in sealed plastic covers and goods like pillows could be airpacked with plastic.
The GO also granted exemption to sale of milk, milk products, oil, medicine and medical equipment in plastic package. Further, plastic bags and sheets were permitted to be used in forestry and horticulture nurseries against orders from government departments. The exemption was also granted to compostable plastic.
Similarly, it was clarified that the ban would not apply to plastic carry bags manufactured exclusively for export purpose against any export order in a plastic industry located in a special economic zone and export oriented units.
Unhappy with the long list of exemptions, Mr. Justice Vaidyanathan said the ban should have been implemented in toto.
Fearing that the exemptions may not help in achieving the objective of saving the environment, the judge wanted the government to reconsider those exemptions and ban all plastic products. He questioned the logic behind banning plastic carry bags alone, while allowing milk and food items to be sold in plastic packs.