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Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun v. State of Uttar Pradesh

Parties Involved

PetitionersRural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun
RespondentState of Uttar Pradesh
Citation: AIR 1987 SC 2187

Facts of the case

A Public Interest Litigation was filled under Article 32 for the violation of Article 21. It was the first case of its kind in the country involving the environmental and ecological balance. The Doon Valley was considered to be rich in minerals after which extensive mining activities was conducted by the government. The mines also dug deep into the hillsides, an illegal practice that resulted in the cave-ins and slumping. As a result, the hillsides destroyed the vegetation and landslides killed many villagers and ruined their homes, cattle and agricultural lands their only means of livelihood. The State of Uttar Pradesh failed to regulate the mining as required by existing mining laws. Illegal extension of leases and destructive practices continued and corrupt and ineffective state practices were conducted in breach of existing mining safety rules. These malpractices lead the petitioner to file a writ petition before the Supreme Court of India in 1983. In response Supreme Court took action and ordered for vegetation. In 1988, the Supreme Court concluded that continued mining destroyed the vegetation and violated Forest Conservation Act.

Issues

The main question raised before the Supreme Court of India was Whether environmental conservation should be given priority over the economic benefits of the nation?

Provisions

  • Article 32, Constitution of India, 1950, Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part VI- (1) the right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed.
  • Article 21, Constitution of India, Protection of life and personal liberty. – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • The Forest Conservation Act, 1980– Limestone quarries in Doon Valley– Continuance of mining activity– Impermissibility Of.

Judgement

The court found that what initially was filed as a letter has not expanded as a full course Litigation. The court ordered for closing down of certain categories of Limestone quarrying. Rationing behind the judgment is considered to be important as the court also took the anticipatory view of the employees of the quarry. The court said that they have anticipated the consequences of this order and what hardships will it bring upon the investors of such large project but the court considered it as a price which has to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the right of the people to live in a healthy environment with minimal disturbance in the ecological balance.

The court confronted the most difficult task of demarcating the Developmental and Ecological Imbalances. The court said it is upon the government and nation to consider whether the development should be done upon the cost of ecological imbalance. But there is no doubt that the court will have to intervene when it requires requisite attention in any serious way.

The Court on its final judgment said that the Doon Valley has been an exquisite region in the Himalayas. But the erratic, irrational, uncontrolled and illegal lime quarrying has left only 10% of the green area while a decade ago it was 70% green.  This hazardous situation has left the judiciary to intervene and to take action otherwise this small area of serene beauty will become a desert. Thus judiciary acted as the protector of the Environment and fulfilled its constitutional obligations. The Court issued the following directions to try to ease the effects of closing the mines:

  1. Those whose leases were quashed by the Supreme Court can apply in other appropriate regions. The state government would prioritize them in providing leases and help them to start their business again.
  2. The Eco-task force made by the central government would work for reforestation of the region. The workers who are unemployed because of mine closing would be given jobs in this eco-task force.

 

Analysis

The Constitution of India guarantees the Right to wholesome environment as a fundamental right under Article 21. All the sectors of economy demands forest as one of the resource directly or indirectly. Forest in India also shares some emotional and spiritual beliefs despite of this deforestation remained a critical problem in India. And this Judgment is considered to be the most vital judicial interpretation of Forest Conversation Act. The Supreme Court made it clear that Environment cannot be taken for granted by the administrative authorities. The court made a demarcation between the development for economical benefits and conservation for larger interest of the country. The Supreme Court also acknowledged that this case has set a trend of conservation of forest in India and appreciated Public Interest Litigations as the great source taken up for the social benefit.

Written By Pakhi Jain