NON-REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 444 OF 2013

Gaurav Kumar Bansal ….Petitioner

versus

Union of India & Ors.
…Respondents

WITH

Writ PETITIOIN (CIVIL ) NO. 823 OF 2013

Foundation for – Resto. of National Values
….Petitioner
versus

Union of India & Ors.
…Respondents

J U D G M E N T

Madan B. Lokur, J.

1. These two writ petitions were filed under Article 32 of the
Constitution consequent upon the unprecedented flood and landslide disaster
that occurred in Uttarakhand in 2013. Undoubtedly the disaster led to
widespread damage to life, limb and property and according to the
petitioners, the adverse impact of the disaster could have been mitigated
had there been effective implementation of the Disaster Management Act,
2005 (for short ‘the Act’) and adequate preparedness by the State
Government of Uttarakhand. It was alleged in the writ petitions that many
of the other States were also not fully prepared to deal with a disaster
and therefore necessary directions ought to be given by this Court for
proper implementation of the Act.

2. This Court took up the petitions in public interest and required
responses to be filed by the State Governments. However, as per the normal
practice, the State Governments were lax and extremely slow in filing
affidavits. The Union Government was also a little slow in ensuring that
the Act is implemented in letter and spirit. Resultantly and apparently
on the prodding of this Court, the Union Government took some positive
action and on 25th February, 2016 a communication was sent to the Chief
Secretaries of all the States by the Joint Secretary (Policy and Plan) of
the National Disaster Management Authority (for short ‘the NDMA’). Through
this letter, the NDMA required the Chief Secretaries of all the States to
frame minimum standards of relief for victims of disaster. This Court also
required the Chief Secretaries to formulate (among other things)
guidelines on minimum standards of relief for food, water, sanitation,
medical cover to be provided to persons affected by a disaster and also
special provisions to be made for widows and orphans. Unsurprisingly,
there was again some laxity in complying with the directions of this Court.

3. On 5th April, 2016 it was brought to the notice of this Court that
Section 11 of the Act requires the drawing up of a National Plan for
disaster management in consultation with State Governments and expert
bodies or organizations in the field of disaster management. It was
brought out that while there is a policy document but the National Plan has
not yet been finalized.

4. It was also brought out that under Section 23 of the Act, each State
is required to formulate a State Plan for disaster management and under
Section 31 of the Act each district is required to formulate a plan for
disaster management. It is unfortunate that more than 10 years after the
passage of the Act by Parliament, many of the States had not taken adequate
steps to ensure that the requirements under the Act were complied with and
disaster management plan formulated.

5. To make matters worse, we were informed on 14th September, 2016 that
some States particularly Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya,
Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal had not yet responded to communications sent
by the NDMA. Eventually, however, it appears that all the State
Governments have woken up to their statutory duties and have formulated
appropriate plans.

6. In the hearing held on 28th April, 2017 it was brought to our notice
by learned counsel appearing for the NDMA that a National Advisory
Committee has since been constituted under Section 7 of the Act by a
notification dated 18th November, 2016 and the Committee has a tenure of
two years. Similarly, under Section 8 of the Act a National Executive
Committee has also been constituted by a notification issued on
27th September, 2006 and that it is a continuing Committee in terms of
the provisions of the Act.

7. It was further pointed out that a National Plan has been approved and
placed on the website of the NDMA in terms of Section 11 of the Act and the
guidelines for minimum standards of relief under Section 12 of the Act have
also been placed on the website of the NDMA.

8. In further compliance with the provisions of the Act, a State
Disaster Management Authority has been constituted in all the States and
Union Territories under Section 14 of the Act and a State Executive
Committee mandated under Section 20 of the Act has been constituted except
in the Union Territory of Chandigarh.
9. It was pointed out by the petitioner appearing in person that an
Advisory Committee had not been constituted by the State Disaster
Management Authority under Section 17 of the Act and that necessary
directions should be given in this regard. Section 17 of the Act reads as
follows:-

17. Constitution of advisory committee by the State Authority – (1) A State
Authority may, as and when it considers necessary, constitute an advisory
committee, consisting of experts in the field of disaster management and
having practical experience of disaster management to make recommendations
on different aspects of disaster management.

(2) The members of the advisory committee shall be paid such allowances as
may be prescribed by the State Government.”

10. On a plain reading of the above provision, we find that there is no
mandate making obligatory the establishment of an Advisory Committee. It
is really for the State Disaster Management Authority to constitute one or
more Advisory Committee as and when it becomes necessary to do so on
different aspects of disaster management. Consequently, on the plain
language of Section 17 of the Act it is not possible for us to give any
direction as prayed for by the petitioner.
11. As far as the preparation of the State Plan under Section 23 of the
Act is concerned, we have been informed by learned counsel for the NDMA
that all States except Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have prepared a State
Disaster Management Plan which is very much in place.
12. As far as the districts are concerned, it is stated that the District
Disaster Management Authority has been constituted in every district under
Section 25 of the Act and out of 684 districts in the country, a District
Disaster Management Plan is in place in 615 districts while it is under
process in the remaining districts.

13. On a review of the steps that have been taken by the NDMA, we are of
opinion that there has been sufficient compliance with the provisions of
the Act and it is not necessary for us to issue any particular directions.
All we need say is that it is absolutely necessary for the NDMA constituted
at the national level and the State Disaster Management Authority at the
State level to be ever vigilant and ensure that if any unfortunate disaster
strikes there should be total preparedness and that minimum standards of
relief are provided to all concerned. However, it would be advisable for
the NDMA to regularly publish its Annual Report (the last one on our record
is of 2013-14), to review and update all plans on the basis of
experiences and to make its website ndma.gov.in multilingual so that all
concerned may benefit.
14. With these observations, we dispose of the writ petitions while
acknowledging the efforts put in by the petitioners in bringing into focus
the necessity of implementing the statute that might affect any one at any
time.
15. The writ petitions are disposed of.

……………………………J
(Madan B. Lokur)

……………………………J
New Delhi; (Deepak
Gupta)
May 8, 2017