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Prof. Vijay Oak - Vidya Pratishthans Vasantrao Pawar Law College, Baramati

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The Indian judiciary adopted the technique of public interest litigation for the cause of environmental protection in many cases. The Supreme Court & High Courts shaded the inhibitions against refusing strangers to present the petitions on behalf of poor & ignorant individuals. The basic ideology behind adopting PIL is that access to justice ought not to be denied to the needy for the lack of knowledge or finances. In PIL a public spirited individual or organization can maintain petition on behalf of poor & ignorant individuals.

In the area of environmental protection, PIL has proved to be an effective tool. In Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra vs. State of
U.P.
(1) the Supreme Court prohibited continuance of mining operations terming it to be adversely affecting the environment.

In Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action vs. Union of India (2), the Supreme Court cautioned the industries discharging inherently dangerous Oleum & H acid. The court held that such type of pollution infringes right to wholesome environment & ultimately right to life.

In another case M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India (3) the Supreme Court held that air pollution in Delhi caused by vehicular emissions violates right to life under Art. 21 & directed all commercial vehicles operating in Delhi to switch to CNG fuel mode for safeguarding health of the people.

In Church of God (Full Gospel)in India vs.KKR Majestic Colony Welfare Association (4) the Supreme Court observed that noise pollution amounts to violation of Art.21 of the Constitution.

In landmark case Vellore Citizens' Welfare Forum vs. Union of India (5) the Supreme Court allowed standing to a public spirited social organization for protecting the health of residents of Vellore. In this case the tanneries situated around river Palar in Vellore (T.N.) were found discharging toxic chemicals in the river, thereby jeopardising the health of the residents. The Court asked the tanneries to close their business.

Conclusion:
In this manner, our judiciary has used the tool of PIL quite effectively for the cause of environmental protection. But the judiciary has shown wisdom in denying false petitions seeking to advance private interests through PIL as evident from the decision of the Supreme Court in Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar (6). Hence, PIL has proved to be a great weapon in the hands of higher courts for protection of environment & our judiciary has certainly utilized this weapon of PIL in best possible manner.

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End Notes:
1. AIR 1985 SC 652
2. AIR 1996 SC 1446
3. AIR 2001 SC 1948
4. AIR 2000 SC 2773
5. AIR 1996 SC 2715
6. AIR 1991 SC 420

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The  author can be reached at :
vijayoak@legalserviceindia.com

 

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