The Indian heritage and culture have an intimate relation with conservation and
protection of the environmental.
The Indian state has also enshrined in the constitution which requires both the
state and the citizen to protect and improve the environmental.
The environmental protection act,1986 is one of those acts which extends to the
whole of Indian without any exception.
Public liability and public nuisance
- M.c. Mehra and Anr.Etc. vs. Union of India and Ors. Etc. 1986 SCR
(1)321 discuss the concept of public liability. This case is also known as oleum leakage case. It is a landmark judgement in which the principle of
Absolute Liability was laid down by the supreme court of India. The court held
that the permission for carrying out any hazardous industry very close to human
habitation could not be given and the industry very close to the human
habitation could not be given and the industry was relocated.
- The instant case evolved the deep pocket principle. This judgment
guided the parliament to add a new chapter to the factory act, 1948.the
public liability act was passed and the policy for the abatement of
pollution was also established.
- when the directive principles of state policy have clear statutory
expression then the court will not allow municipal government to make fun of
the statues by sitting idly. It was decided by the supreme court in the municipal corporation,
Ratlam vs.Vardhichand AIR1980 SC 1622. The plea of lack of fund
will be poor alibi when people in misery cry for justice. The office in charge
and even the elected representatives will have to face a penal if they violate
the constitutional and other statutory directives
- the bench of justices PN Bhagwati and Ranganath Misra in rural litigation and
entitlement Kendra Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1987 SC 2187
introduced the concept of sustainable development , an NGO named reek filed a
case against limestone quarrying in the valley in 1987.
- it was stated that the permanent assets of mankind are not to be
exhausted in one generation. The natural resources should be used with
requisite attention and care so that ecology and environment may not be
affected in any serious way.
Environmental impact assessment
- justice Jeevan reedy in the landmark judgement of Indian council for enviro-legal
action vs. Union of India AIR 1999 SC 1502 held that the financial costs of
preventing or remedying damage caused by pollution should lie with the
undertakings which cause the pollution by adopting the polluter pays
- the court set a time limit for the coastal states to formulate coastal
management plans and banned industrial or construction activity within 500
meters of the high tide line.
- The writ petition filed by the activist advocate M.C. Mehra v/s.
Union Of India
AIR 1988 SCR (2) 583* ordering the closure of a number of polluting tanneries
- In this judgment it was observed that just like an industry which cannot
pay minimum wages to its workers cannot be allowed to exist, a tannery which
cannot setup a primary treatment plant cannot be permitted to continue to be
- The pride of Indian and one of the wonders of the world i.e.., Taj Mahal, was
facing threat due to high toxic emission from Mathura refineries, iron
foundries, glass and other chemical industries. The acid rain was a serious
threat to the Taj Mahal 255 other historic monuments within Taj trapezium.
- the apex court in M.C.Mehta vs. Union India (Taj trapezium case) Air
1987 delivered its historic judgment in 1996 giving various directions
including banning the use of coal and cake and directing the industries to
compressed natural gas (cng).
Public trust and right to life
M.C. Mehta v/s Union Of India -
- the bench of justices Kuldip Singh and Sagir ahmed held that the
government violated the doctrine of public trust in M.C.Mehta vs. Kamal Nath and
Ors.(1996). The himachal Pradesh state government had leased out a protected
forest area on the bank of river baes to motels, or commercial purposes.
- in 1996, the supreme court passed a judgment that would hold state more
responsible for maintaining natural resources.
- the righ to pollution free environment was declared to be a part of
right to life under article 21 of the constitution of India in the case of
vs. State of Bihar and Ors.(1991).
Right to life is a fundamental right which
includes the right of enjoyment of pollution free water and air for full
enjoyment of life
(Kanpur Tannerie’s Matter), Air (1987)4
- This case was a public interest litigation presented before a division
bench of the hon’ble supreme court comprising of E.S. Venkatraramiah and K.N. Singh,
- the petitioner M.C. Mehta, who was an active social worker had filed this
petition inter alia for the issue of writ/order/direction in the nature of
mandamus to the respondents restraining them from letting out the trade
effluents into the ganga river until the time they put up necessary treatment
plants for treating the trade effluents in order to arrest the pollution of
water on the said river.
- it was the complaint of the petitioner that neither the government nor
the people were giving adequate attention to stop the pollution f river ganga.
- it was therefore sought that steps should be taken for the purpose of
protecting the cleanliness of the stream in river ganga.
- it was contended that the trade effluent-- trade effluent "includes any
liquid, gaseous or solid substance, which is discharged from any premises
used for carrying on any trade or industry, other than domestic sewage
discharged from tanneries as ten times noxious when compared with the
domestic sewage water which flows into the river from any urban area on its
banks and was thus a major source of pollution of river ganga.
- there was not much dispute on the question that the discharged of the
trade effluents from these tanneries into river ganga had been causing considerable
damage to the life of the people who used the water of river ganga and also to
the aquatic life in the river.
- however, the tanneries of Kanpur had presented that due to lack of physical
facilities, technical knowhow and funds, it had not been possible for most of
them to install adequate treatment facilities.
- it was pleaded on behalf of a few tanneries that if sometimes was given
to them to establish the pre-treatment plants they would install them. It
was however, submitted by all of them that it would not be possible for them
to have the secondary system for treating waste water as that would involve
enormous expenditure which the tanneries themselves would not be able to
- In his judgment Venkatramesh, J, held that the State was under a
constitutional duty to project and improve the environment - Environment
includes water, air and land and the interrelationship, which exist among and
between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants,
microorganism and property. State has to safeguard the forests and wildlife of
the country (Article 48-A of the constitution of India).
- In the opinion of the court, it was fundamental duty of every citizen to
protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers
and wildlife, and have compassion for all living creatures. (Article 51-A of
the constitution of India).
- the court further decided that it was the duty of the state government,
through the state boards, sections 16 and 117 of the water (prevention and
control of pollution) act,1974.- and the central government to use the
powers conferred upon them by statute to take all such measures as it deemed
preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution-section 3 and 5
of the environments (protection) act,1986.
- In cases of this nature, the court could issue appropriate directions if
it found that public nuisance or other wrongful acts affecting or likely to
affect the public are being committed and the statutory authorities, who
grievance.-under the laws of the land responsibility for treatment of the
industrial effluents is that of the industry. even the concept of strict
liability could be adhered to in some cases if the circumstances so
- finally it was said that the industries which cannot pay minimum wages
to the workers, cannot be allowed to exists, a tannery which cannot set up a
primary treatment plan couldn’t be permitted to continue to be existence.
This is because the adverse effect on the public at large which likely to
ensue by the pollution of the ganga would be immersed would be outweigh any convenience that
may be caused to the management and the Labour employment by it on account of
closure of the tanneries. Thus, the financial capacity of the tanneries was to
be considered as irrelevant while requiring them to establish primary treatment
However, since the environments a complex, variable and extensive system, protecting the environment is a hard and enduring task.
It is impossible that all the existence pollution problems in the environmental
can completely be resolved in the next decade.
A wonderful and quality environment must be achieved by continuous planning,
governmental policies, efforts of the enterprises and public participation.
It is the responsibility of everyone to protect our environment. Let us fulfill
responsibilities I environmental problems, creation a quality ecological
environment sharing wonderful green living together.
- Deepti Dash
- Nandita Sharma