In Supreme Court of India
Writ Petition (C) No. 967 of 1989
Indian Council For Environment Legal
Union of India & ors.
Date of Judgement
13 Feb. 1996
Justice B.P.Jeevan Reddy, Justice B.N Kirpal
1. In this case writ petition was filed up by an environmental organization named Indian Council for Environment Legal Action.
2. That environment organization brought up subject matter to bring light on the woes of people living in a area which is captured by the chemical industries plants in a village named Bichhri village .
3. It is a small village located in Udaipur district of Rajasthan. Northern part of this village is captive with the chemical industrial plants like Hindustan Zinc Limited and many other. This case highlights the greed among the industrialists for the maximization of their profits by promotingindustrialization and export earnings.
4. However, in the year 1987 when the fourth respondent that is Hindustan Agro Chemicals Limited started producing concentrated form of sulphuric acid what is known as Oleum along with the single super phosphate which is hazardous for the people living in that particular area. Afterwards another respondent TataSilver Chemicals also started with the production of “h” acid give me the same complex. Acid h was produced for the export transactions.
5. Along with this Jyoti chemical is another complex established which particularly produces acids”H” besides many other chemicals. Many Other industries were setup to produce fertilizers and other chemicals which is directly or indirectly creates pollution.
6. These all created the production of toxic effluents in that particular area which is not properly treated by the industries. Be it water,be it air and everything which comes into the contact of these industries were being poisoned .
7. According to the report submitted , there were about 2500 tonnes of highly toxic sludge was produced and on the other hand 375 tonnes of H” acid were being
8. And all the waste material thrown into the open field of village area without being treated properly.
9. These toxic chemicals released out polluted the ground and polluted the water at ground level. Over the time, all the wells and other streams turned black and polluted by these toxic chemicals. The water in the wells used for drinking, irrigation and cattle feeding etc.
10. The fertility of soil also gets affected and gets polluted which is the main source of livelihood for
11. Pollution that was created from the toxic chemicals also result into various of diseases, disasters economics death in the village area and in the nearby areas.
12. The Parliament also worried about the sudden degradation of mother earth and the ministers also insured that some reasonable action should be taken but nothing had happened.
13. As a result, the villagers took an action and rose up a virtual revolt imposition of Section 144 of CPC by the District Magistrate of that area for the closure of these industries.
Issues raised in the case:-
- Whether industry which are engaged in production of hazardous chemicals taken some measures to safeguard the environment?
- Whether the respondent is liable to pay the amount necessary to carry out the appropriate remedial action?
In the Bichhri village respondent industries commenced production of `H’ acid in aplant located within the same complex. Its production gives rise to creation of enormous quantities of highly toxic effluents – in particular, iron-based and gypsum which is basically creates sludge . That waste material that is sludge was not treated properly which resulted into the creation of pollution in air water and many other natural resources. It lead to grave threat to mother earth. Further it was argued that all the factories and industries of the respondents in the nearby areas of the village creates higher degree of pollution to the mother earth and should be immediately shut down.Moreover, it was also argued that firstly the production is to be stopped unless treated properly so that it will not create any harm to the mother earth Along with this, petitioner also argued that almost every respondent industry had applied for ‘No- Objection Certificate’ for the production of this harmful chemicals and was denied and rejected by the authority is evidently depicts that the production of these harmful Chemicals will lead to the destruction of environment in enormous ways.
In the counter argument the respondent submitted counter affidavit to support their statements.The following are the averments:
(a) Re. Hindustan Agro Chemicals Limited [R-4]: According to their affidavits this unit has been granted a “No-Objection Certificate’ from the P.C.B. for manufacturing sulphuric acid and alumina sulphate.
(b)Board granted clearance subject to certain conditions. Letter on the board also granted’No- Objection Certificate’ under the Water [Prevention and Control of Pollution] Act, 1974 [Water Act] and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 [Air Act], again subject tocertain conditions.
Instead of producing sulphuric acid they started producing Oleum and Single Super Phosphate [S.S.P.]
Respondent also contended that it is very difficult to treat as many of the pollutants present are refractory in nature.
[i]After Judges considered the facts and circumstances of this case they declare thatindustry must deposit the amount as directed by this Court vide orderdated April 11, 1997 with compound interest. The applicantindustry has deliberately notcomplied with the orders of this court since April 11, 1997. Thousands of villagers have beenadversely affected because no effective remedial steps have been taken so far. The applicantindustry has succeeded in their design in not complying with the court‟s order by keeping thelitigation alive for more than 15 years by filing the interlocutory applications which were being totally devoid of any merit are accordingly dismissed with costs. Consequently, theapplicantindustry is directed to pay Rs. 37,385,000 INR (USD 608,628) along withcompound interest @ 12% per annum from April 11, 1997 till the amount is paid orrecovered. The applicantindustry is also directed to pay costs of litigation. Even after final judgment of this Court, the litigation has been kept alive for almost 15 years. The respondentshave been compelled to defend this litigation for all these years. Enormous court’s time has been wasted for all these years. On consideration of the totality of the facts and circumstancesof this case, we direct the applicantindustry to pay costs of Rs.1,000,000 INR (USD 16,280)in both the Interlocutory Applications. The amount of costs would also be utilized forcarrying out remedial measure in village Bichhri and surrounding areas in Udaipur District ofRajasthan, India on the direction of the concerned authorities.”
In simple words the court applied the principle of polluters pay principle that means according to the court if the activity carried on is hazardous in nature then the pollutant carrying such activity is liable to make good the loss caused to any other individual irrespective of the fact that whether he took reasonable precautions or not while performing his activity .
Significance and critical analysis of the judgement
As per my view the judgement was really impressive and justified in it’s own sense . The honourable judges applied Polluter Pay Principle which is very helpful to mitigate the risk and damage post to the mother earth. In the judgement there was a ambiguity possessed clear identity of the actual polluter. However under the polluters pay principle the mountain compensation which was taken as a fine compensate the damages they cause to the mother earth is reasonable. As per my views, the judgement was reasonable and justified.
[i] (1996) 5 SCC 281