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GreenJudgements.pdf.pdf

GreenJudgements.pdf.pdf

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Published by Vaishnavi Jayakumar

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Published by: Vaishnavi Jayakumar on Jun 11, 2014
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06/11/2014

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Green Judgements
 
Courts support a vigilant public
Legislation that Enable Checks and Balances by the People
TheConstitutionofIndiaguaranteeseverycitizenthefundamentalrighttolife andpersonalliberty.UnderArticle48(A)oftheConstitution,theStateofIndia isalsorequiredtoendeavourtoprotectandimprovetheenvironmentandto safeguardtheforestsandwildlifeofthecountry.TheConstitutionalsomakesit thedutyofeverycitizenofIndiatoprotectandimprovethenatural environment,includingforests,lakes,riversandwildlife,andtohave compassion for living creatures.
RIGHT TO LIFE
ThefundamentalRighttoLifeisguaranteedunderArticlestatesthat“Noperson shallbedeprivedofhislifeorexceptaccordingtotheprocedureestablishedby law”.twodecades,thisArticlehasundergoneprogressiveincludeanumberof rights,whichinterprettherighttolifeinthebroadestsense.TheSupreme Courtinalandmarkjudgment(FrancisCoralievs.TheAdministrator,Union TerritoryofDelhiandothers,AIR1981)observedWethinkthattheRightto Lifeincludestherighttolivewithhumandignityandallthatgoesalongwith it.Themagnitudeandcontentthecomponentsofthisrightwoulddepend upontheextentofdevelopmentofthecountry,butitmust,inanyviewofthe matter,includetherighttothebasicnecessitiesoflife.Thisnowincludesthe righttocleanandhygienicenvironmentandaboveall,therighttolivewith basic dignity.”
 A USEFUL TOOL
Overtheyears,PublicInterestLitigation(PIL)hasbecomeoneofthemost importanttoolsoflegalaidandhasservedtobringjusticeinmanycases involvingsocialandenvironmentalconcerns.UnderaPIL,anypublic-spirited individualorgroupcanmovethecourtoflaw(underArticle226ofthe ConstitutionforHighCourts,andArticle32fortheSupremeCourt)incaseof breachofanyfundamentalright,toseekjudicialredressal.ThePILisaformof writpetitionwhichcanbefiledbyanybody,evenifheorsheisnotdirectly affectedbytheperceivedinjustice.Thishasenabled 
 
environmentally-conscious,public-spiritedindividualsorgroups,whicharenot anaggrievedparty,tohaveeasyaccesstothehighestcourtofthenation.PILs becomeacollaborativeeffortbetweenthepetitioner,Stateorpublic authority,andthecourt,toredressthebreachofafundamentalright.The SupremeCourthasplayedapro-activeroleinenhancingtheuseofPILs.It hassimplifiedtechnicalprocedurestoencouragemoregrievancestobe addressedthroughthismechanism.Ithasrelaxedtherequirementofaformal writtoseekredress.Anymemberofthepubliccanmovethecourtforasocial causeeventhroughaletter,whichwouldbeentertainedasawritpetitionby thecourt.Moreover,thefeesinthecaseofawritpetitionareverynominal. TheConstitutionalBenchoftheSupremeCourtobservedintheM.C.Mehtav. UnionofIndia(1987)case:Procedurebeingmerelyahand-maidenofjusticeit shouldnotstandinthewayofaccesstojusticetotheweakersectionsthis Courtwillnotinsistonaregularwritpetitionandevenaletteraddressedbya publicspiritedindividualorasocialactiongroupactingprobonopublicowould suffice to ignite the jurisdiction of this Court.
ENFORCING THE VERDICTS
CourtverdictsinaPILareusuallynotself-executing;theyhavetobeenforced bysomestateagency.TheCourtoftenhastodealwithpollutingindustries, municipalbodiesandconcernedauthoritiestoseethatthedecisionisactually beingenforced.Courtshaveusedavarietyoftechniquestoensurethattheydo notactasaparallelgovernmentinsuchcases,butactonlytoenforcethe constitutionalrightsofthecitizens.Theyhavedevisedmethodsformonitoring implementation.Often,thismeanskeepingthelitigationpendingbeforethe CourtsothatthepetitionercanseektheCourtsintervention,asandwhen required. Generallyinallenvironmentalcases,theSupremeCourthasprescribedtime limitswithinwhichtheorderistobeimplemented,askedforperiodicreports fromtheconcernedauthoritiesandhaseveninstructedtheStateHighCourtsto monitorenforcement.IntheShriramGasLeakageCase,whereagasleakinthe factorycausedonepersontodieandhundredsofothersweretakenillinan areaadjoiningDelhi,theCourtorderedclosureofthechlorineplant,the settingupofavictimcompensationscheme,andreopeningoftheplantunder specificdirections,allwithinaspanoftenweeksofthegasleak.IntheDoon Valleycase(seeBox),itwasbroughttothenoticeoftheCourtthatfresh mininghadstartedinspiteoftheCourtsorder.TheCourtimposedserious sanctionsandfinesonthelessee,andafterensuringthestoppageofminingin thearea,askedthelesseetopayasumofRs.3,00,000($6000)tofundthe monitoringcommitteesetupbytheCourt.Itisgenerallybypassingstrictures, askingforpersonalappearancesandexplanationofofficials,orderingclosureof faultyunits,extendingtimelimitforcomplianceetc.thattheCourtisableto enforce its decisions.
 
 TheultimatesanctionwhichtheCourtcanusefornon-complianceofitsorder istohauluptheconcernedpartyforcontemptofcourt.Therehavenotbeen manyoccasionswhentheCourthasneededtoexercisethisclause.Overthe years,theSupremeCourthasseenPILsasopportunitiesforthegovernmentto fulfillwiderenvironmentalandsocialrights.PILshavenotonlybrought communitycauses,concernsandrightstothenoticeofthehighest constitutionalauthority,theyhavealsoservedasatoolinthelaw-making process.Theyensureobservanceofbasichumanrightsbybothlegislativeand executivewingsofthegovernment,thusfulfillingtheiroverallconstitutional objectives.
Crusader for the Environment
Formorethansevenlongyearsstarting1984,MaheshChanderMehtabattledin theSupremeCourteveryFridayonbehalfoftheTajMahal.Hiscrusadewasto convincetheSupremeCourttoeithermoveorshutdowntheironfoundries, glassfactoriesandtheMathuraPetroleumRefinery,situatedinthevicinityof theTaj,whichwereenvelopingitinsulphurous,acidicsmoke.In1993,after nearlyadecadeofcourtbattles,theSupremeCourtordered212smallfactories surroundingtheTajMahaltoclosedownbecausetheyhadnotinstalledpollution controldevices.Another300factoriesweregivennoticestoinstallnecessary devices.TheAgraThermalpowerplantwasalsoshutdown.Overtheyears, nearly50,000treeshavebeenplantedaroundtheTajtoprovideagreencover againstthesurroundingpollution.TheTajCampaignisonlyoneofthe enviro-legal battles that M.C. Mehta has fought. Inanothercase,hehassecuredaSupremeCourtorderclosing30polluting factoriesintheStateofWestBengalonthebasisofaPILagainstindustrial pollutionoftheriverGanga.MehtasGangaCase,whichreportedlybeganthe processofcleaninguptheriver,ispossiblyoneofthebiggestPILsinIndia, affectingpeople,townsandvillagesallthewayfromtheNorthernStatesof UttaranchalandU.P.,toBiharandWestBengalontheeastcoastofIndia.Apart fromthe30unitsthatwerehauledupinWestBengal,157otherfactorieshave beenindictedand300-oddmunicipalitieshavebeenaskedtocleanuptheir operations.TherehavebeenanumberofothersignificantcaseswhereMehta hasgotfavourablejudgmentsforhispetitions.IntheShriramGasLeakageCase andtheStone-CrusherCase,notonlyweretheunitsorderedtoclose,but compensation was also granted for victims in the former case. ActingonanotherofhisPILsin1992,theSupremeCourtdirectedtheUnionof Indiatospreadinformationrelatingtoenvironmentinnationalandregional languagesthroughtheaudio-visualmediaandalsotointroduceenvironmentas a compulsory subject in schools and colleges.

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