Citations: 1996 AIR 1446, 1996 SCC (3) 212

Date of Judgement: 13 February 1996

Bench: Jeevan Reddy, B.P. (J)

Facts of the Case: –

In this case, an environmental protection organization filed a writ petition under the ambit of Article 32 of the Indian constitution for the plight of the people living in the vicinity of chemical industrial plants in India and requesting appropriate remedial measures.

In a village Bichari in the Udaipur district of Rajasthan, an industrial complex was established, and the respondent was producing chemicals like Oleum and Sludge Phosphate without having obtained prior licenses also, they did not install any equipment for the treatment of highly toxic effluent discharged by them. As a result, the water becomes unfit for consumption. It spread diseases, death, disaster in the village and its surrounding areas. The villagers revolted against the production of “H” acid, and ultimately, the industry was closed. The Court requested the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute to do a survey and submit the reports it was found that out of 2440 tones of sludges about, 720 tones were still there intending to conceal it from the eye of the inspection team the respondent dispersed and cover it with the earth. 

Accordingly, the matter was listed before the bench for the final order.    

Issue Raised: –

  1. Whether the writ petition filed under the ambit of Article 32 of the Indian Constitution maintainable against private corporate bodies? 
  2. Whether the respondent is responsible for the damages, and what are the appropriate remedial measures? 

Judgment: – 

1. The Supreme Court held that if the action of the private corporate bodies infringes on a person’s fundamental right, then The Court would not accept the argument that it was not   “state” under the definition of article 12. If The Court finds that the government or authorities concerned have not taken action required for them by the law, then it is the duty of the court to intervene; therein, the writ stands maintainable.

2. The Supreme Court held that the respondent was liable to all the damage cost to the village and charged Rs 37.385 crore payable at a Compoundable interest of 12% p.a. the Court directed the respondent to pay for the litigation charges and further stated that in regards to the determination of remedial measure the central government has the power to decide. The principle on which remedial measures will be determined is “Polluter Pays,” which means “repairing damages is that of offending industries.” 

Personal Opinion: – 

The Comprehensive order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India safeguards the interest of the citizen whose fundamental rights are being violated. The concept of The Polluter Pay principle is a very crucial factum in safeguarding the ecological balance in the environment and directing the offender to pay for the violation. 

In my opinion, the above direction shall apply mutatis mutandis to a similar situation that may arise before the Hon’ble Supreme Court.    

(By – Siddharth Addy)

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