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Green syllabus fine on 10 states

New Delhi/Calcutta, Sept. 22: The Supreme Court today imposed a fine of Rs 15,000 each on 10 states, including Bengal, which have not yet complied with its order to make environment a compulsory subject in schools and colleges.

A division bench of Justices Santosh . Hegde and B.P. Singh fined the states after they failed to respond to the court’s notice to introduce environment as a compulsory subject.

Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Jharkhand were given four weeks to deposit the fine and file replies on the status of introduction of the subject.

“If the response was not filed or the fine amount was not deposited within the stipulated time, the respective chief secretaries would be held responsible,” the bench said, posting the next hearing for October 28.

Hours after the order, the Bengal government said it was against introducing environmental studies as a separate subject at the primary, Madhyamik and Higher Secondary levels as this would increase the burden on students. But the state emphasised that environmental topics have been incorporated into the syllabi of conventional subjects at Madhyamik and HS stages.

Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty, who said he had no idea about the apex court notice, clarified: “We are one among the few states in the country to have introduced environmental studies as a compulsory subject at the under-graduate level.”

All 340 colleges in the state are offering compulsory environmental studies, being taught according to central guidelines, he added.

The court was today hearing various environment-related matters filed as a public interest litigation by environmentalist lawyer M.C. Mehta, a Magsaysay award winner.

Mehta had alleged non-implementation of wide ranging apex-court directions of 1991. A bench presided over by Justice G.. Ray had then directed the University Grants Commission to prescribe the course at graduation and post-graduation levels.

“So far as education up to the college level is concerned, we would require every state government and every education board connected with education up to the matriculation or even intermediate colleges to immediately take steps to enforce compulsory education on environment in a graded way,” the bench had said.

It had ordered compliance by the academic year 1992-93 and also made it mandatory for cinemas to exhibit for free at least two slides on importance of environment protection.

After Mehta’s plea, the court had taken a serious view of lapses in compliance and issued notices on July 21 to states, Union territories and education organisations responsible for prescribing syllabus.

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