On the 22nd of November 2022, A petition filed on the grounds that the use of reinforced paper cups was over-inclusive and disproportionate was turned down by the Supreme Court. Previously in 2019, the Madras High Court passed an order which banned the use of reinforced paper cups in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
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“There is little room or justification for this court to intervene on the merits of the prohibition given the scientific justification for it and the state government’s policy choice to outlaw a number of categories of single-use plastic goods in the public interest,” the bench said.
Issue surrounding the paper cups
In 2019, The Madras High Court passed an order banning the use or production of any Paper cups since in the production of these cups they were usually lined with wax or plastic. This order was passed in Public interest as an effort to control the pollution especially around coastal areas where tourists consume drinks from these paper cups and do not dispose of them properly.
The petitioner filed an application for writ under the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution on the grounds that the Ban is overinclusive and disproportionate. Therefore, Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution which provides Right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business to all citizens was being restricted as per the contentions.
The bench was considering a petition submitted by the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Paper Cup Manufacturers Association, contesting a Madras High Court decision that rejected their request to overturn a government directive prohibiting the production, storage, distribution, sale, transportation, and utilization of single-use disposable plastics.
During this hearing an application challenging the ban of Reinforced paper cups was brought up on the grounds that it was overinclusive and disproportionate.
The Bench comprising two Judges namely, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice PS Narasimha took action in accordance with this issue and after analyzing the fact, evidence and arguments of both the council passed a judgment Today.
In their Judgment they noted the report submitted by the Indian Institute of Technology stated that the use of these reinforced paper cups is harmful to the environment and the production of these cups would lead to increased cutting of trees and recycling which will in turn result in more pollution. This study done by IIT was the same report on the basis of which the ban was imposed in the first place.
The Bench gave importance to the scientific basis of this ban while also finding traces of wax and plastics in the linings of this product and upheld the State governments decision in banning various single – use plastic products in public interest. Therefore, it leaves the Apex court minimal room to interfere in this ban.
The court agreed that Article 19(1)(g) had been restricted, however, an exception in Article 19(1)(g) states that “provides Right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business to all citizens subject to Art. 19 (6) which enumerates the nature of restriction that can be imposed by the state upon the above right of the citizens.”
This states that the government can impose reasonable restrictions upon public interest. In the present case the Judges held that since it was in the greater interest of the general public to enjoy an environment with minimal, this ban is upheld.
The Supreme Court however instructed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board or TNPCB to review the prohibition of non-woven bags in accordance with the revised Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016.
“This court believes that the arguments made in the non-woven bag case are presented in a somewhat different way. It seems that these bags have some reusable qualities. These bags’ composition, or the amount of polypropene and filler used in their production, can be altered.” the Bench held.
In this significant judgment, the Supreme Court has upheld the ban on the use of reinforced paper cups in Tamil Nadu. This decision reaffirms with the state’s order as an effort on environmental conservation and its adherence to Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. By upholding the ban on these non-biodegradable products, the court has taken a significant step in reducing the environmental impact of disposable plastics, promoting sustainability, and safeguarding the well-being of the ecosystem. This ruling highlights the importance of responsible waste management practices and serves as a precedent for similar measures in other regions, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.