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M.C. Mehta v/s Union Of India: Ganga Pollution Case - Citation AIR 1988 SC 1037;(1987) 4 SCC 463

Name of the Case M.C. Mehta vs Union of India

Citation AIR 1988 SC 1037;(1987) 4 SCC 463
Date of Judgement 22/09/1987 and 12/01/1988
Petitioner M.C. Mehta v/s Respondent (s) Union of India & Ors.

Fact Of Case
  • In 1985, a matchstick tossed by a smoker in Haridwar, a pilgrimage city along the Ganga River in India, caused the river to catch fire for more than 30 hours.
  • The fire was a result of the presence of a toxic layer of chemicals produced by a pharmaceutical firm in the river.
  • M.C. Mehta, an environmental lawyer and social activist, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India in response to the incident.
  • The PIL named around 89 respondents, with Respondent 1, Respondent 7, Respondent 8, and Respondent 9 being Union of India in 1985.
  • Mehta alleged in the petition that government authorities had not taken effective steps to prevent environmental pollution of the Ganga River despite advancements in environmental laws.
  • Due to the vast scale of the Ganga River (2,500-km stretch), the court requested Mehta to narrow down his focus, and he chose the city of Kanpur, even though he was not from the city nor lived there.
  • Using the judicial remedy of writ, Mehta called upon state agencies to prevent leather tanneries and the municipal corporation of Kanpur from releasing industrial and domestic effluents into the river.
  • Some law reports refer to this case as the "Ganga Pollution Case."
  • Mehta's petition requested the Supreme Court to restrain the respondents from discharging effluents into the Ganga River until they implemented treatment plants to address pollution, specifically cyanogenic effluents.
  • Mehta also requested the court to order the leather tanneries in the Kanpur district to stop releasing untreated effluents into the river and claimed that the Municipal Corporation of Kanpur was not treating domestic biodegradable pollution.
  1. Have the authorities recognized the deteriorating condition of the sacred watercourse and conducted an investigation into the matter?
  2. What actions, taken by the state in response to the situation?
  3. Should smaller industries receive financial support to implement effluent treatment plants?

  1. The petitioner requested the court to restrain the respondents from releasing polluting effluents into the Ganga river until they establish treatment plants to address pollution.
  2. The court highlighted the importance of protecting the environment as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, specifically mentioning Article 48-A and Article 51-A.
  3. The court recognized the significance of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, which aims to prevent and control pollution and maintain water quality.
  4. Section 24 of the Act prohibits the disposal of polluting matter into streams, including watercourses.
  5. The court ordered the tanneries to establish primary or secondary treatment plants as a minimum requirement.
  6. The financial capacity of the tanneries was deemed irrelevant in the obligation to establish treatment plants.
  7. The court criticized the State Board for not taking effective steps to prevent effluent discharge into the Ganga river and the Central Government for not addressing the public nuisance caused by the tanneries.
  8. The court invoked Article 52A (g) of the Indian Constitution, which imposes a fundamental duty to protect and improve the natural environment.
  9. The court directed the Central Government to mandate environmental education in all educational institutions, allocate free textbooks, and provide training for teachers on the subject throughout India.
  10. The education should focus on the importance of cleanliness for a healthy body and mind and cover various aspects of environmental protection.

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