M. C. Mehta v. Union of India(Kanpur tanneries case)
Citation : 1988 AIR 1115
Place of origin
Date of decision
22nd September 1987
E.S. Venkataramiah and K.N. Singh, JJ.
Public interest litigation relating to environmental issue
Constitution of India, 1950: Articles 48A and 51A-State to protect and improve environment-Fundamental duty of every citizen to improve natural environment. Environmental Law Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986: 'Environment'-Discharge of effluents from tannery into the River Ganga-Necessity to establish primary treatment plants-Closure of tanneries directed on failure to comply- Life, health and ecology have great importance. Practice and Procedure: Court can issue appropriate directions if it finds public nuisance being committed and statutory authorities not taking adequate steps to rectify the grievance.
Statement of facts
The petitioner, an active social worker, filed a petition before this Court complaining that neither the Government nor the people were giving adequate attention to stop the pollution of the river Ganga and it was, therefore, necessary to take steps for the purpose of protecting the cleanliness of the stream in the river Ganga which was in fact the life sustainer of a large part of the northern India. 2.
It was the complaint of the petitioner that neither the Government nor the people were giving adequate attention to stop the pollution of 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 was 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. 3.
And subsequently and sought the issue of a writ/order/direction in the nature of mandamus to the respondents other than respondents Nos. 1 and 7 to 9 restraining them from letting out the trade effluents into the river Ganga till such time they put necessary treatment plants for treating the trade effluents in order to arrest the pollution of water in the said river. 4.
This Court directed issue of notice under order 1 Rule 8 of the 280 Code of Civil Procedure treating the case as a representative action calling upon industrialists and the municipal corporations and town municipal councils having jurisdiction over the areas through which the river Ganga flows to appear before the Court to show cause as to why direction should not be issued as prayed for by the petitioner asking them not to allow trade effluents and sewage into the river Ganga without appropriately treating them before discharging them into the river. 5.
The case against the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur, was first taken up by the Court for consideration. Forty three respondents admitted in their counter affidavits that the tanneries discharged their trade effluents into the sewage nallah which led to the municipal sewage plant before they were thrown into the river Ganga. 6.
The Court was informed that six of the tanneries had already set up and fourteen were engaged in construction of primary treatment plants, and some others pleaded for time to do so. It was submitted on behalf of the respondents that it would not be possible for them to have secondary system for treating waste water in view of the enormous expenditure involved, which the tanneries would not be able to meet. Some of the tanneries neither appeared nor were represented by counsel in this Court. Statement of Issues or Question of Law -
Strict Liability of industries if the waste generated by the industries pollutes...
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