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Most Important Environmental Law Judgments in India

The Indian Heritage and Culture has a special connection with the preservation and security of the environment. The Indian State has also blessed it in the Constitution which needs both the State and the Citizen to protect and enhance the environment. The Environment Act, 1986 is one of those acts which spread to the whole of India without any limitation.

Constitutional Interpretation of Environment:

The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India appended Article 48A and 51A (g) which originates under the Directive Principle of State Policy and the Fundamental Duties respectively.

The Supreme Court of India in Sachidanand Pandey v. State of West Bengal[1] declared that the Court is obliged to carry in mind the before said articles whenever a case linked to Environmental difficulty is brought to the Court. The Article 48A declares: The State shall Endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country.

The Article 51A(g) commands a duty upon every citizen of India to protect and enhance the natural environment and presents right to come before the Court for relevant relief.
The Apex Court in Deodar Rao v. S.O. Municipal Corporation[2] believed that the environmental pollution and destruction which is deliberately destroying and poisoning the environment should also be considered as amounting to a violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Public Liability and Public Nuisance:

M.C. Mehta and Anr. Etc vs. Union Of India and Ors.[3] explains the theory of Public Liability. This case is also known as Oleum Leakage Case. It is a landmark judgment in which the principle of Absolute Liability was put down by the Supreme Court of India. The Court believed that the support for bringing out any dangerous industry very close to the human occupancy could not be given and the industry was relocated.

The immediate case developed the Deep Pocket Principle. This judgment conducted the Parliament to add a new chapter to the Factory Act, 1948. The Public Liability Act was enacted and the policy for the Abatement of Pollution Control was also installed.

When the Directive Principles of State Policy has clear legal definitions then the Court will not allow Municipal Government to make fun of the Statutes by resting idly. It was determined by the Supreme Court in the Municipal Corporation, Ratlam vs. Vardhichand[4]. The case of lack of capital will be weak alibi when people in pain cry for justice. The office in charge and even the selected delegates will have to face punishment if they infringe the constitutional and other statutory directives.

Sustainable Development

The Bench of Justices PN Bhagwati and Ranganath Mishra in Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[5] presented the concept of Sustainable Development. An NGO described RLEK filed a case against limestone quarrying in the valley in 1987. It was declared that the hard assets of humanity are not to be consumed in one period. The natural resources should be practised with necessary consideration and attention so that environment and climate may not be interested in any severe way.

Environmental Impact Assessment. Justice Jeevan Reddy in the landmark judgment of Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action vs. Union of India[6] believed that the financial costs of checking or mitigating damage produced by pollution should lie with the hazards which cause the pollution by choosing the Polluter Pays Principle.

The Court set a time limit for the bordering states to express coastal management plans and prevented industrial or construction activity within 500 metres of the High Tide Line.

Water Pollution

The writ appeal filed by the activist advocate M.C. Mehta in the Supreme Court highlighted the abuse of the Ganga river by the dangerous industries located on its banks. Justice ES Venkataramiah gave a famous judgement in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India[7] commanding the closure of a number of poisoning tanneries near Kanpur.

In this judgment, it was mentioned that just like an industry which cannot pay minimum wages to its workers cannot be permitted to exist, a tannery which cannot set up a central treatment plant cannot be allowed to proceed to be in continuation.

Animal Welfare

The Hon'ble Supreme Court in banned Jallikattu and other animal races and competitions. It was mentioned that the Bulls cannot be making animals in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraj and Ors.[8].

The court alluded to the section 3 and section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and said that animal conflicts influenced by humans are unlawful, even those carried out under the guise of law and practice. The Court listed severe references and improved the sentences and fines in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to operate completely.

Air Pollution

The pride of India and one of the miracles of the world i.e., Taj Mahal, was a challenging threat due to high toxic radiations from Mathura Refineries, Iron Foundries, Glass and other chemical industries. The acid rain was a dangerous threat to the Taj Mahal a 255 other historic monuments within the Taj Trapezium. The Apex Court in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India[9] presented its historic judgment in 1996 giving various regulations including preventing. the use of coal and cake and directing the industries to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

Environmental Awareness and Education Case

The Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India[10] ordered the Cinema theatres all over the country to show two slides free of cost on the environment in each show. Their permits will be eliminated if they fail to do so. The Television network in the country will give 5 to 7 minutes to televise programmes on environment aside from giving a general weekly programme on the environment.

The environment has shifted a mandatory subject up to 12th standard from academic session 1992 and University Grants Commission will also include this subject in higher classes in different Universities.

End-Notes;
  1. AIR 1987 SC 1109
  2. AIR 1987 AP 171
  3. Etc 1986 SCR (1) 312
  4. AIR 1980 SC 1622
  5. AIR 1987 SC 2187
  6. AIR 1999 SC 1502
  7. AIR 1988 SCR (2) 538
  8. (2014) 7 SCC 547
  9. (Taj Trapezium Case) AIR 1987
  10. WP 860/1991

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