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Decision of Apex Court On Ecology & Air Pollution
The Supreme Court of India has made immense contribution to environmental jurisprudence of our country. It has entertained quite a lot of genuine public interest litigation (PIL) cases or class-action cases under Art. 32 of the Constitution. So have the High Courts under Art. 226 of the Constitution. These Courts have issued various directions on a number of issues concerning environment as part of their overall writ jurisdiction and in that context they have developed a vast environmental jurisprudence. They have used Art. 21 of the Constitution of India and expanded the meaning of the word life in that Article as including a right to a healthy environment
The Supreme Court of India is considered, in recent years, as the most important dispenser of environmental justice. By delivering landmark judgments that have, indeed, altered the common people's perception of the court of law as just a forum for dispute resolution and nothing else; the Supreme Court has carved out a niche for itself. It holds a unique position and has been projected as a ' Green Court' in contributing to the evolution of environmental jurisprudence in India. An attempt has been made in this article to analyze how some of the judgment have contributed to the enrichment of environmental jurisprudence. This section analyses the contribution of Judges to the jurisprudence of Environmental Law and to the development of international environmental law. The analysis seeks not only to deal with the specific content of some judgment but also to draw a broader picture of views of the Judges towards protection and development of environment and related laws.
Judicial Approach In Environment Related Cases
If one examines the judicial approach in cases involving environment-related objections against the construction of infrastructural projects, there have of course been different approaches taken by different courts in the past. One can broadly conceptualise these judicial approaches under three categories. The first of these can be described as a pro-project approach wherein judges tend to emphasize the potential benefits of a particular project or commercial activity. The second approach can be described as that of judicial restraint wherein judges defer to the determinations made by executive agencies and experts with regard to the environmental feasibility of a project. The third approach is that of rigorous judicial review wherein judges tend to scrutinize the environmental impact of particular activities.
Role Of Judiciary
The judiciary, to fulfill its constitutional obligations was and is always prepared to issue appropriate orders, directions and writs against those persons who cause environmental pollution and ecological imbalance. This is evident from a plethora of cases decided by starting from the Ratlam Municipality Case. This case provoked the consciousness of the judiciary to a problem which had not attracted much attention earlier. The Supreme Court responded with equal anxiety and raised the issue to come within the mandate of the Constitution.
Verdict Of Honourabale Apex Court:
The first case where the supreme court recognized the right, though not directly, in Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. state of U.P.where the Supreme Court gave directions for removal of open drains and prevention of public excretion by the nearby slum dwellers. The matter came up by way of a criminal appeal. The Court relied upon Art 47 which is in the Part IV of the Constitution relating to the Directive Principles. That Article refers to improvement of public health In that judgment, the Supreme Court gave several directions to the Ratlam Municipality for maintenance of public health In this case the court after hearing both the sides held inter alia that the threat to ecological balance resulting in the deterioration of the quality of environment was thus apparently treated as involving a threat to right to life. Here it is to be said it other words that the right to clean environment was indirectly recognized as an ingredient of right to live. That judgment was followed in B.L. Wadhera vs. Union of India and directions were issued to the Municipal Corporation of old Delhi and New Delhi, for removal of garbage etc.
Long before the Court enlarged its levels of scrutiny, the Supreme Court, in Sachidanand Pandey vs. State of West Bengal: AIR 1987 SC 1109, laid down rules which unfortunately sound like Wednesbury rules applied in administrative law. It said Whenever a problem of ecology is brought before the Court, the Court is bound to bear in mind Art. 48A of the Constitution . and Art. 51A(g).When the Court is called upon to give effect to the Directive Principles and the fundamental duty, the Court is not to shrug its shoulders and say that priorities are a matter of policy and so it is a matter for the policy-making authority. The least that the Court may do is to examine whether appropriate considerations are borne in mind and irrelevancies excluded. In appropriate cases, the Court may go further but how much further must depend on the circumstances of the case. The Court may always give necessary directions. This limited nature of scrutiny is no longer followed today by the Courts. Today the Courts appoint independent experts and test the claims of parties on the basis of the expert advice that is given to the Court.
Rural litigation and entitlement Kendra vs state of U.P.In this case the relevant issue for the purpose of Apex Court discussion is whether the limestone mining activities in the Mussorie-Dehradun region caused ecological disturbance and thus violated the right to life of the people in that region. The Supreme Court declared that these activities polluted the environment and thus violated the right to life of the people. In this case carrying haphazard and dangerous limestone quarrying practices in Mussorie hill range of the Himalayas, mines blasting out the hills with dynamite, extracting lime stone from thousand of acres had upset the hydrological system of the valley. The S.C. ordered the closing down of limestone quarrying the valley and observed. This would undoubtedly cause hardship to them, but it is a price that has to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the right of the people to live in healthy environment with minimum disturbance of ecological balance and without avoidable hazard to them and their cattle, homes and agricultural land and under affection of air, water and environment.
The Supreme Court also emphasized the importance of forest conservation in the Ambica Quarry Works v. State of Gujarat and others In this case, the petitioner appealed to the Court when the State Government rejected an application for renewal of a mining lease under Section 2 of the Forest ( Conservation) Act o f 1980, which requires permission to be obtained from the Central Government for using forest areas for non-forest purposes. The State government rejected the application of the appellant for renewal of lease on the ground that the land fell under the Reserved Forest area and hence the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 applied to the forests. The contention of the petitioner was that by the order dated 29 th November, 1971, the said lands were dereserved from the forest by the forest department and allotted the land for the quarrying purpose to the appellant. The appeal in the Supreme Court centred on the question of a proper balance between the need of exploitation of the mineral resources lying within forest areas, the preservation of ecological balance, and curbing the growing environmental deterioration.
In dismissing the appeals, the Supreme Court said that the rationale underlying the Forest ( Conservation) Act, 1980 was recognition of the serious consequences of deforestation, including ecological imbalances, and the prevention of further deforestation. This was an Act passed by the Parliament to provide for the conservation of forest and for matters connected therewith or ancillary thereto. The Court observed that in this case the renewal o the mining leases will lead to further deforestation or at least will not help reclaiming the areas where deforestation has taken place. The court also held that if the permission had been granted before coming into operation of the 1980 Act and the forest land has been cleared or broken up, Section 2 of the 1980 Act would not have been applied in such a case. In this way, the court dismissed the applicants' demand for a renewal of the quarry leases and emphasized the implementation of Forest Act of 1980, in order to prevent further deforestation.
In State of Bihar vs. Murad Ali Khan, AIR 1989 SC, page 1, the Supreme Court was dealing with an appeal concerning protection to wild life in Kundurugutu Range forest in Bihar. The Supreme Court quoted from a decree issued by Emperor Asoka in the third century BC, that has a particularly contemporary ring in the matter of preservation of wild life and environment. The decree said: twenty six years after my coronation, I declared that the following animals were not to be killed: parrots, mynas, the arunas, ruddy-geese, wild geese, the nandimukha, cranes, bats, queen ants, terrapins, boneless fish, rhinoceroses and all quadrupleds which are not useful or edible forests must not be burned. The Supreme Court observed:
“Environmentalists conception of the ecological balance in nature is based on the fundamental concept of nature as the series of complex biotic communities of which a man is an inter-dependent part and that it should not be given to a part to trespass and diminish the whole. The largest single factor in the depletion of the wealth of animal life in nature has been the civilized man operating directly through excessive commercial hunting or, more disastrously, indirectly through invading or destroying natural habitats.
The Apex court in Damodar Rao Vs S.O., municipal corp. held that the slow poisoning by the polluted atmosphere caused by environmental pollution and spoliation should also be regarded as amounting to violation of Act 21 of Indian constitution. In Subash Kumar vs. state of Bihar, the apex court observed: right to life is a fundamental right under Art 21 of the constitution and it includes the right to enjoyment of pollution free water and air for full enjoyment of life. If any thing endangers or impairs that quality of life in derogation of laws a citizen has right to have resource to art 32 of the constitution for removing the pollution of water or air, which may be, deter mental to the quality of life. while restraining 400 licensees who had mining licenses granted in Rajasthan to mine lime and dolmite stones in the sariska Tiger Park the Supreme Court, in Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar vs. Union of India AIR 1992 SC 514, observed that this kind of litigation should not be treated as the usual adversarial litigation. Petitioners were acting in aid of a purpose, high on the national agenda. Petitioners concern for the environment, ecology and the wild life should be shared by the Government. Holding that the Government had no power to sanction lease of the land vested in the Municipality for being used as open space for public use the Supreme Court in Virulent Gar vs. State of Haryana 1995(2) SCC 577 observed, after referring to the Stockholm Declaration of 1972 and Principle 1 laid down in that Conference and after referring to Art. 48-A, Art. 47 and Art 51A(g), and Art. 21, as follows:
“The word environment is of broad spectrum which brings within its ambit, hygienic atmosphere and ecological balance It is, therefore, not only the duty of the State but also the duty of every citizen to maintain hygienic environment. The State, in particular has duty in that behalf and to shed its extravagant unbridled sovereign power and to forge in its policy to maintain ecological balance and hygienic environment. Art. 21 protects right to life as a fundamental right. Enjoyment of life and its attainment including their right to life with human dignity encompasses within its ambit, the protection and preservation of environment, ecological balance free from pollution of air and water, sanitation without which life cannot be enjoyed. Any contra acts or actions would cause environmental pollution. Environmental, ecological, air, water, pollution etc should be regarded as amounting to violation of Art. 21. Therefore, hygienic environment is an integral facet of right to healthy life and it would be impossible to live with human dignity without a humane and healthy environment. Environmental protection, therefore, has now become a matter of grave concern for human existence. Promoting environmental protection implies maintenance of the environment as a whole comprising the man-made and the natural environment. Therefore, there is a constitutional imperative on the State Government and the municipalities, not only to ensure and safeguard proper environment but also an imperative duty to take adequate measures to promote, protect and improve both the man-made and the natural environment.
In M. C. Mchta V. Shriram Food and Fertilizer Industries and Union of India (Oleum Gas Leak Case -I) petitioner filed the write against the oleum gas leakage and for closing down one of the units of Shriram food and Fertilizers industries belonging to Delhi Cloth Mills Ltd. The Court allowed to restart plant subject to certain stringent conditions laid down in the order .But the notable development where the rule in Rylands vs. Fletcher was modified by the Court , holding that the enterprise which is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous industry which poses a potential threat to the health and safety of persons working in the factory and residing in the surrounding areas, owes an absolute and non-delegable duty to the community to ensure that no harm results to anyone on account of hazardous or inherently dangerous nature of the activity which it has undertaken the enterprise must be absolutely liable to compensate for such harm and it should be no answer to the enterprise to say that it had taken all reasonable care and that the harm occurred without any negligence on its part The larger and more prosperous the enterprise, greater must be the amount of compensation payable for the harm caused on account of an accident in the carrying on of the hazardous or inherently dangerous activity by the enterprise.
In the case of M.C. Mehta V. Union of India . The peoples collective conscience should wake up before the matter slips out of the hands. Each country now must seriously strive for the maintaining of ecological balance, otherwise tomorrow will be too late. The social activist lawyer mr.M.C.Mehta initiated a series of cases under M.C.Mehta vs. union of India where the Supreme Court had the opportunity to examine the potentialities of the concept of right to live in checking violations of environment. The first M.C.Mehta case is specifically dealing with an activity causing direct threat to life of workers and of the general public in and around factory engaged in the manufacture of the hazardous products. The court pointed out that the case raised some seminal questions concerning the true scope and ambit of art 21 and 32 of the constitution. In meeting the questions, the court adopted a detached approach of balancing the values of environment with those of development on the basis of it; the court imposed certain conditions on such type of hazardous industry. The ratio of this case is simple. It states that when science and technology are increasingly employed in producing goods and services calculated to improve the quality of life, there is certain element of hazard or risk inherent in the vary of science and technology and it is not possible to totally eliminate such hazard or risk. It is not possible to adopt a policy of not having any chemical or other hazardous industries merely because they pose hazard or risk of the community. If such a policy were adopted, it would mean the end of all progress and development such industries, even if hazardous have to be set up since they one essential to economic development and advancement of well being of the people. Hence the court opined that pending consideration of issue whether the caustic chlorine plant should be directed to be restarted by the management subject to certain stringent conditions like through examination of safety measures by an expert committee, a personal undertaking by the chairman of managing director for payment of compensation in case of escape of chlorine gas resulting in death injury to the workmen or others, the management of shriram food and fertilizers Industries should deposit Rs. 20 lacks with the court by way of security for payment of compensation to the victims of gas leakage, displaying of the chart of effects chlorine gas on human body and informing workman and people as to what immediate treatment should be taken installing for timely warning to the people in the vicinity of the factory and the constant vigilance whether the workers are using helmets, gas marks and safety belts in caustic chlorine plant and so on.
The second M.C.Mehta case imputes an important question whether the claim for compensation for oleum gas can be made under act 32. The question was answered by the court in a letter of complaint for violation of fundamental right of an individual or a class of individuals who can not approach the court of justice, there is no reason why the application for the compensation which has been made for the enforcement of the fundamental right under act 21 of the person affected by oleum gas leak should not be entertained. The court held that the power to issue direction under act. 32. is tantamount to power issue direction for payment of compensation. The fourth M.C.Mehta case group of owners of tanneries doing business on the bank of Ganga were alleged to be polluting the river. The Supreme Court issued direction to the tanneries to set up primary treatment plant within a period of six months. The court also directed the central Govt., pollution control board and the district magistrate to oversee the work. In supporting judgment justice K.N.Singh observed that, the pollution of the river Ganga is affecting the life, health, ecology of the Indo-Genetic Plan. He also concluded that, the closure of tenneris may bring unemployment, loss of revenue but life, health and ecology have greater importance to people.
In the M.C.Mehta vs. union of India , the court held on the same fact that a person interested in protecting lives and using water flowing in the river Ganga has the right to move to supreme court Shri. M.C.Mehta in a subsequent petition moved the supreme court for prevention of nuisance caused by the pollution of river Ganga in order to protect the lives of the people who make of its water. The court referred to the Environment (protection) Act 1986 which contains certain provisions relating to the continue prevention and abatement of pollution of water and one signification provisions in that Act is what contained in section 17 thereof which provides that where an offence under that act is committed by any department of the govt., the head of department shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and is liable to be punished. Ultimately it was observed by the court that although parliament and state legislature have enacted many laws imposing duties on the central and state boards and the municipalities for prevention and control of pollution of water, many of those provisions have just remained on paper without any adequate action being taken pursuant thereto on account of the failure of authorities to obey the statutory duties for several years the water in the river Ganga at kanpur has become so much polluted that it no longer be used by the people either for drinking or for bathing. The Nagar mahapalika of Kanpur has to bear the major responsibility of the river near Kanpur city. In the instant case the Supreme Court gave certain directions to the Kanpur municipal corporation and the other concerned authorities in order to control and prevent the pollution of water in the river Ganga at Kanpur. All those directions will also apply mutatis mutandis to other municipal corporations and municipalities. The Central Govt. was directed to include the subject of national Environment in the textbooks of all educational institutions. There was further direction to make people aware of the importance of cleanliness and hazards of pollution. keep city/village clean weeks should also be observed in this connection.
Vehicular pollution in Delhi city, in the context of Art 47 and 48 of the Constitution came up for consideration in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India: 1998(6) SCC 60 and 1998(9) SCC 589. It was held that it was the duty of the Government to see that the air was not contaminated by vehicular pollution. The right to clean air also stemmed from Art 21 which referred to right to life. Lead free petrol supply was introduced in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India 1998 (8) SCC 648 and phasing out old commercial vehicles more than 15 years old was directed in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India 1998(8) SCC 206.These judgments are important landmarks for the maintenance of clean air in Delhi. Moreover in S. Jagannath v. Union of India the Supreme Court has held that setting up of shrimp culture farms within the prohibited areas and in ecologically fragile coastal areas has an adverse effect on the environment, coastal ecology and economics and hence, they cannot be permitted to operate. The B.L. Wadhera vs- Union of India This case relates to ecology non performance of mandatory duties of Municipal Corporation, like garbage clearance, scavenging and cleaning Delhi city. Supreme Court held that non availability of funds, machinery, etc. cannot be pleaded as non performance of statutory obligation. Direction issued to scavenged and clean Delhi city everyday and also appoint Municipal magistrates for trial of offence under Corporation Act. Buffalo Graders Welfare Association vs- Maneka Gandhi In this case Idgah Slaughter House of Delhi was directed to stop functioning in the city w.e.f. 30.11.96 to stop unhygienic atmosphere in the residential locality. M.C.Mehta vs- Union of India In this case Supreme Court held that mining activity in the vicinity of tourist resorts of Bad Kal Lake and Surajkund are bound to cause several impact on the ecology and directed that mining activity should be stopped within 3 km of the tourist resort.
Pradeep Kishen vs- Union of India In this case a PIL was filed against the order issued by the Govt. Madhya Pradesh permitting collection of tender leaves from the forest by the local villagers/tribals. However Supreme Court did not interfere with the said order but directed the authorities to look to the aspect that only bonafide villager can collect tender leaves and to take necessary steps to protect the shrinkage of forest.T.N. Goda Varman Thiru Mulkpad vs- Union of India This matter relates to usefulness of modern Shrimp(Prawn) farming and traditional shrimp farming. Commercial aquaculture farming in the coastal area caused depletion of mangrove eco system. Supreme Court held that modern shrimp farming is violative of Environment Protection Act and cannot be permitted. However traditional farming is pollution free and directed to constitute High Power Authority to scrutinize each and every case. M.C.Mehta vs- Union of India This is very famous case relating to preservation of Tajmahal at Agra. Industries situated near the Tajmahal Trapizium Zone (TTZ) are directed to use natural gas instead of coak or coal as the use of the same causes serious impact on the Tajmahal and people living in the area. Otherwise industries were directed to stop functioning and relocate to other area.
T.N. Goda Varman Thiru Mulkpad vs- Union of India PIL was filed for conservation of forests and disposal / utilization of illegally felled timber. World Saviours vs- Union Of India (1998) 9 SCC 247 In this case it was directed that state electricity connection shall not be given to any industry without No Objection Certificate from the State Pollution Control Board. M.C.Mehta vs- Union of India This case relates to destruction to the green belt within 500 meters of Tajmahal caused by the musical concern by the annitroupe. Supreme directed authorities to strictly adhere to the direction of the Supreme Court to protect the sound, air and environmental pollution of the Tajmahal. T.N. Goda Varman Thiru Mulkpad vs- Union of India Writ petition was filed for relocation of wood industries and ban for timber trade in the North Eastern States was filed . Supreme Court held that complete ban on timber trade is not feasible or desirable and directed the State governments of North Eastern states to notify industrial area for location of wood based industrial units.
Church of God (Full Gospel) vs- state of Tamilnadu In this case Supreme came down heavily on the practice of beating drums and use of loud speaker in places of worship. It was held that no religion prescribed this practice and observed that, In our view in the civilized society in the name of religious activities which disturb old and infirm persons, students or children having their sleeps in the early hours or during day time or other perform carrying other activity cannot be permitted. It should not be forgotten that babies in the neighborhoods are also entitled to enjoy their natural right of sleeping in peaceful atmosphere. Aged, sick people afflicted by psychic disturbances as well as children upto the age of six years are considered to be sensitive to noise. Their rights are also required to be honoured N. D. Jayal and Another vs Union of India and Others,, Supreme Court held that, the adherence of sustainable development principle is a sine qua non for the maintenance of the symbiotic balance between the rights to environment and development. Right to environment is a fundamental right. On the other hand right to development is also one. Here the right to 'sustainable development' cannot be singled out. Therefore, the concept of 'sustainable development' is to be treated an integral part of 'life' under Article 21
Goa Foundation vs- Union of India (Decided by Supreme Court on 22-02-05) Recently Supreme Court comprising the bench of Mr. Y.K Shabbarwal and Mr. P.P. Naolekar passed an order on 22-02005 directing the Central Government to issue directives to close down 218 industrial units across the country to close down for flouting environmental norms. Need for balance between development and preservation of ecology was again stressed in Live Oak Resort (Pvt.) Ltd. v. Panchgani H.S. Municipal Council With reference to vehicular pollution in Delhi and implementation of the orders for introduction of CNG, the court passed a series of orders in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India Smoking cigarettes in public places was prohibited by the Supreme Court in Murli S. Deora v. Union of India (2001) 8 SCC 765. The right to clean air was part of the right to life under Article 21. In Hinch Lal Tiwari v. Kamla Devi (2001) 6 SCC 496 the Supreme Court held that healthy environment enables people to enjoy a quality of life which is the essence of the rights guaranteed under Article 21.
Concern for safety and well-being of wildlife in zoos came up for consideration in a case where a tiger was skinned alive in a zoo. The provisions of Article 48-A of the Constitution and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (ss.38 (a), 38 (c), 38 (h) and 38 (j)), the provisions of the Forest Act, 1927 also were considered. (Navin M. Raheja v. Union of India (2001) 9 SCC 762) The Supreme Court pulled up the Madhya Pradesh State Pollution Control Board for not taking any interest and, in fact, acting negligently in the matter of discharging its functions since various industries were discharging pollutants in contravention of the provisions of the laws: State of M.P. v. Kedia Leather and Liquor Ltd. (2001) 9 SCC 605. In Bittu Seghal v. Union of India (2001) 9 SCC 181 (Judgment dated 31.10.1996) the court gave a direction to the State of Maharashtra in regard to the protection of Dahanu Taluka, regarding CRZ notification of the Government of India dated 19.2.2001 and the Regional Development Plan as approved by the Government of India (subject to conditions) on 6.3.1996. The court directed the Central Government to constitute an authority under s.3 (3) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 to be headed by a retired Judge of the High Court and to confer on the authority powers required to protect the region, control pollution and issue directions under s.5 and for taking measures as stated in s.3 (2) (v) 2 (x) and (xii) of that Act. The said authority was to bear in mind the Precautionary Principle and the Polluter
Cleaning and developing ponds which had dried up was part of the duty of the Government under Article 21. (Hinch Lal Tiwari v. Kamla Devi (2001) 6 SCC 496). The Supreme Court in Virender Gaur v. State of Haryana, the Court explicitly held that:The word environment is of broad spectrum which brings within its ambit hygienic atmosphere and ecological balance. It is therefore, not only the duty of the State but also duty of every citizen to maintain hygienic environment. The State, in particular has duty in that behalf and to shed its extravagant unbridled sovereign power and to forge in its policy to maintain ecological balance and hygienic environment. Closure, shifting, re-location of polluting industries in the residential areas of Delhi came up again in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (2002) 9 SCC 481, 483 and 534. Protection of monuments and religious shrines came up in Wasim Ahmed Saeed v. Union of India (2002) 9 SCC 472. The court held that shifting of 24 licensed shops from the vicinity of the religions shrine of Dargah of Salim Chishti in Agra as recommended by the Archaeological Department, did not violate Article 21. In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (2002) 4 SCC 356, the Supreme Court held that one of the principles underlying environmental law is that of sustainable development. The principle means that such development which also sustains ecology can take place. The essential features of sustainable development are (a) precautionary principle and (b) the polluter pays principle.
In Vineet Kumar Mathur Vs. Union of India [(1996) 1 SCC 119], the Court took note of the continued violation of the State, as well as industries by continuing to pollute water by discharging effluents and also in not setting up of common effluent treatment plants. The Court held that in the circumstances the officers were in clear contempt of court and accepted their apology and made the violation a part of their service record. Although the Court was very stringent in its approach to the problem, pardoning the officers by merely recording such observation in the service records leaves much to be desired. It is essential for the Court to award such punishment as required so that the officers of the Board do not succumb to pressure. The Court has successfully isolated specific environmental law principles upon the interpretation of Indian statutes and the Constitution, combined with a liberal view towards ensuring social justice and the protection of human rights. The principles have often found reflection in the Constitution in some form, and are usually justified even when not explicitly mentioned in the concerned statute. There have also been occasions when the judiciary has prioritized the environment over development, when the situation demanded an immediate and specific policy structure. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India
The Supreme Court of India in A.P. Pollution Control Board vs. M.V. Nayudu, the Court referred to the need for establishing Environmental Courts which would have the benefit of expert advice from environmental scientists/technically qualified persons, as part of the judicial process, after an elaborate discussion of the views of jurists in various countries. In the subsequent follow-up judgment in A.P. Pollution Control Board vs. M.V. Nayudu, the Supreme Court, referred to the serious differences in the constitution of appellate authorities under plenary as well as delegated legislation25 and pointed out that except in one State where the appellate authority was manned by a retired High Court Judge, in other States they were manned only by bureaucrats. These appellate authorities were not having either judicial or environment back-up on the Bench.The need for Environmental Courts were advocated in two earlier judgments also. One was M.C. Mehta v. Union of India where the Supreme Court said that in as much as environment cases involve assessment of scientific data, it was desirable to set up environment courts on a regional basis with a professional Judge and two experts, keeping in view the expertise required for such adjudication. There should be an appeal to the Supreme Court from the decision of the environment court. Again in the judgment of Indian Council for Enviro- Legal Action v. Union of India in which the Supreme Court observed that Environmental Courts having civil and criminal jurisdiction must be established to deal with the environmental issues in a speedy manner.
The directives of the Supreme Court went to the extent of spreading environmental awareness and literacy as well as the launching of environmental education not only at school level, but also at the college level. In MC Mehta v. Union of India, the Supreme Court stressed the need for introducing such schemes,In order for the human conduct to be in accordance with the prescription of law it is necessary that there should be appropriate awareness about what the law requires. This should be possible only when steps are taken in the adequate measure to make people aware of the indispensable necessity of their conduct being oriented in accordance with the requirements of law. The courts have attempted to provide a balanced view of priorities while deciding environmental matters. As India is a developing country, certain ecological sacrifices are deemed necessary, while keeping in mind the nature of the environment in that area, and its criticality to the community. This is in order that future generations may benefit from policies and laws that further environmental as well as developmental goals. This ethical mix is termed sustainable development, and has also been recognized by the Supreme Court in the Taj Trapezium case. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 734. (per Kuldip Singh, J.)
The decision of the Supreme Court in Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India 2000 (10) SCC 664 at p.727 has observed that sustainable development means what type or extent of development can take place, which can be sustained by nature/ecology with or without mitigation. In this context, development primarily meant material or economic progress. Beginning with Vellore CitizensWelfare Forum v. Union of India AIR 1996 SC 2715., the Supreme Court has explicitly recognized the precautionary principle as a principle of Indian environmental law. More recently, in A.P. Pollution Control Board v. M.V. Nayudu AIR 1999 SC 812.the Court discussed the development of the precautionary principle.S. Jagannath v. Union of India (Shrimp Culture case), AIR 1997 SC 811. Furthermore, in the Narmada case Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, AIR 2000 SC 3751., the Court explained that when there is a state of uncertainty due to the lack of data or material about the extent of damage or pollution likely to be caused, then, in order to maintain the ecology balance, the burden of proof that the said balance will be maintained must necessarily be on the industry or the unit which is likely to cause pollution.”
The Supreme Court has come to sustain a position where it calculates environmental damages not on the basis of a claim put forward by either party, but through an examination of the situation by the Court, keeping in mind factors such as the deterrent nature of the award. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (Oleum Gas case), AIR 1987 SC 965 However, it held recently that the power under Article 32 to award damages, or even exemplary damages to compensate environmental harm, would not extend to the levy of a pollution fine.M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath, AIR 2000 SC 1997.
To sum up, The Supreme Court, in its interpretation of Article 21, has facilitated the emergence of an environmental jurisprudence in India, while also strengthening human rights jurisprudence. There are numerous decisions wherein the right to a clean environment, drinking water, a pollution-free atmosphere, etc. have been given the status of inalienable human rights and, therefore, fundamental rights of Indian citizens. The above judgments of the Supreme Court of India will show the wide range of cases relating to environment which came to be decided by the said Court from time to time. The Court has been and is still monitoring a number of cases. It will be noted that the Court constantly referred environmental issues to experts, and the Court has been framing schemes, issuing directions and continuously monitoring them. Some of these judgments of the Supreme Court were given in original writ petitions filed under Art. 32.The proposal for Environmental Courts is intended to lessen this burden, as already stated. But that as it may, the Supreme Court has, in the various cases referred to above, laid down the basic foundation for environmental jurisprudence in the country..
# Law Commission of India One Hundred Eighty Sixth Report On Proposal To Constitute Environment Courts p-25
# Environmental Governance and Role of Judiciary In India by Geetanjoy Sahu p-24
# Green Decisions: Summary of some Important Judgments by
# Bhat Sairam
# D.P. Shrivastava Memorial Lecture -?he role of the judiciary in environmental protectionby Hon?le Mr. K.G. Balakrishnan, Chief Justice of India
# AIR 1996 SC 2969
# Law Commission of India One Hundred Eighty Sixth Report On Proposal To Constitute Environment Courts
# AIR 1985 S.C.. 652
# Ambika Quarry Works v. State o f Gujarat, AIR 1987 SC 1073
# AIR 1987, S.C. 171
# AIR 1991 S.C. 420
# AIR 1987 SC 1965
# AIR 1992 SC 382
# M.C.Mehta vs. union of India, AIR 1987 SC 965.
# 1987 SC 1086
# AIR 1988 SC 1115
# AIR 1997 SC 811
# (1996) 2 SCC 594
# (1996) 11 SCC 35
# (1996) 8 SCC 462
# (1996) 8 SCC 599
# (1997) 7 SCC 440
# (1997) 2 SCC 353
# (1998)9 SCC 632
# (1998) 9 SCC 93
# (1999) 9 SCC 151
# (1999) 9 SCC 121
# AIR 2004 SC 867
# (2001) 8 SCC 329.
# (2001) 3 SCC 763, 756 and (2002) 4 SCC 356.
# (1987) 4 SCC 463
# 1999(2) SCC 718
# 2001(2) SCC 62
# 1986(2) SCC 176 at page 202
# 1996(3) SCC 212 at p. 252
# Report of Law Commission of India
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