A public interest litigation was filed before the supreme court to protect Taj Mahal from further deterioration and damage which was not only caused by natural causes of decay but also by changing socio-economic conditions which aggravate the situation. The petitioner further stated that the foundries, hazardous factories and the refinery at Mathura are regarded as the major sources of pollution in Agra as reported in Central Pollution Control Board Report. The SO2 released by the Mathura Refinery and other factories when mixed with oxygen in the atmosphere with the aid of moisture also form sulphuric acid which is also known as Acid Rain which has a corrosive effect on the shining white marble. The primary factor for polluting air flow around Taj Mahal are industrial waste, vehicle traffic and generator sets. The petitioner estimated that the white marble turned into yellow in colour and the deterioration inside is more evident.
Whether the damage to the Taj Mahal is caused due to the emission of harmful gases like Sulphur oxide (SO2) from chemical industries?
The court held that as an industrial fuel , 292 companies would turn over to natural gas. Industries that are unable to obtain gas connection shall stop operating by using coke or coal in the Taj Trapezium Zone and can relocate themselves.
The Supreme Court also offered the employees working in those 292 industries some benefits and privileges. Workers in the new place where the industry is moved shall have continuity of employment. The time between the collapse of industry in Agra and its restart at the place of relocation shall be considered as active jobs and with the continuity of service, the employees needs to be paid their full salary. Workers who decide to transfer will earn the salary of one year as a shifting incentive and employees who do not wish to move shall be considered to have retrenched.
The court agreed to negotiate separately with industries other than those 292 industries and ordered the board to send notices to the remaining TTZ industries demanding gas connection or relocation.
The court also ordered that all the brick kilns must stop their operation at Taj Trapezium Zone. The bench also directed that the fly ash produced during the process of thermal plant functioning could be supplied to brick kilns for brick building. This is a useful step in reducing fly ash emissions.
It is a landmark judgement for environmental law jurisprudence in India. The court has based its decision on the precautionary principle and polluters pay principle, thus making it an essential part of our country’s environmental jurisprudence. The Supreme Court has taken on a constructive position and made expansive use of the case in the public interest litigation to protect basic environmental interests. The judicial activism exercised in this case by the Supreme Court for environmental protection shows the growing importance of the environmental litigation in India.