“Judicial approach for Water Pollution”

Water pollution occurs when materials such as polythene, plastic bottles, or other harmful substances mix with rivers, lakes, and ocean currents. Such toxic things are continuously degrading the quality of water. Water is considered a universal solvent; it can dissolve most of the dissolvable substance, which makes it easier for the pollutants to get into the water.

There are several types of water pollution:

Groundwater pollution

When raindrops fall on the earth’s crust and fill the space or cavity between them, it is called groundwater, which is the most used and invisible source of water. About 80% of India’s population depends on groundwater for its agricultural and drinking purposes. Harmful materials such as pesticides and fertilizers impair soil quality and eventually cause groundwater pollution and make it unfit for human use. These harmful substances find their way to flow from soil to rivers, oceans, etc.

Surface water pollution

Surface water can be termed as the blue visible part of the map. It consists of lakes, rivers, oceans which cover about 70% of the Earth. Surface water pollution mostly occurs when pollutants such as polyethylene, plastic water bottles, harmful pesticides, etc. are mixed with surface water. Different types of pollutants have different harmful environmental effects. There are many sources of water pollution in which the contributors are municipalities, factories, and industries, which discharge their waste directly into the waterways.

Ocean water pollution

Ocean pollution is also called marine pollution. About 8% of the total ocean water waste is produced on the earth. Substances like plastics, heavy metals, nutrients, and other harmful chemicals are continuously polluting the seawater.Sea pollution is posing a major threat to marine plants and animals.

Constitutional provisions

To protect the environment from water pollution, the legislature has enacted “The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974” commonly known as the “Water Act”.The act was also enacted to maintain and restore the water level. The Act imposes a duty of care on all factories and industries, not to waste their waste or to restrict the flow of water, if any organization fails to do so, they will be sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 18 months to 6 years. There is no special provision in the Indian Constitution as a “right to water”. The creator of water rights in India is the judiciary. The Supreme Court of India has said many times that the “Right to Life” as described under Article 21 includes “Right to Enjoyment of Pollution Free Water and Air” as well. 

Some provisions in the Indian constitution give direction to safeguard water pollution:

Article 15: Article 15 of the Indian constitution describes that “No person should be discriminated for using bathing ghats, tanks, holy rivers, etc based on their caste, race, sex or place of birth.”

Article 37 and 39: Article 37 and 39 are described under part III that is the Directive Principles of State Policy which says that “The State should ensure the equal distribution of material resources for common use and good.”

Article 51A: Article 51A of the Indian Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen of India to protect and take care of the environment, which includes rivers, lakes, forests, etc. 

Apart from serving justice to society, when the judiciary gives its general opinion for the good of the public, it is called judicial activism. It mainly focuses on the legislature to make laws in accordance with public interest and development in the legislature and many legal systems reflect the influence of the judiciary in making better decisions. The judiciary has shown its concern in many cases and the most famous case is,

M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, AIR 1988 SC 1115

Facts:  This case is popularly known as the Ganga Pollution Municipalitycase. the Ganga River is a historic sacred river for Hindus, which passes through Varanasi, Haridwar, Kolkata, Prayagraj, Kanpur, etc.

Some industries were dumping their untreated waste directly into the river Ganga. The sewage from sewage lines, human excreta, and waste of cattle were also discharged into the river Ganga. According to some reports, The bodies of dead and half-burnt corpses were also thrown directly into the river from Kashi in the hope that they would be liberated. The water of the river Ganga was tested in Kanpur and found to be unfit for drinking. 

M.C. Mehta (petitioner) filed a case against the Kanpur Nagar Mahapalika under Article 32 of the Constitution of India in the Supreme Court citing the public disturbance caused by the polluted river Ganga. M.C Mehta stated that the Municipal Corporation has failed to control and stop the pollution caused to the river Ganga under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, etc. And asked the court to direct the concerned authorities some necessary steps.

Judgment: The court admires the initiative taken by the petitioner and give its judgment

 by directing The Municipal Corporation to immediately take the following steps: 

  1. Cattle creating public nuisance should be shifted to dairies outskirts of the city.
  2. To improve sewage systems and construct toilets in the slum area.
  3. To stop the practice of throwing dead bodies and semi-death bodies in the river. 
  4. Instruct factories to either stop working or maintain a primary waste material treatment plant if they cannot afford secondary treatment plants.


The development of a country and its environment goes hand in hand, both of them are dependent on each other for their development. The study of public health and environmental matters should be done very carefully as they are a major part of the development of a country. Human existence is not possible at all without a proper environment because it fulfills the basic need of human beings. While focusing on development and technology, humans somewhere forget about the environment, although the legislature is making different acts for environmental protection but they are not enough. The judiciary, on the other hand, is very aware of the environment and is consistently giving the best examples like in the case of Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum vs. Union of India and Others, AIR 1996 SC 2115. Other quasi-judicial bodies are also participating actively like The National Green Tribunal NGT), sometimes complaints made under Pollution Control Board step up to National Greens Tribunal, cases related to water pollution can directly be filed with NGT as well. Also, every citizen should be aware of their fundamental rights and duties so that the environment can be protected more effectively.

Drishti Chhattani
I am a law student pursuing BBA LL.B at ITM University, Raipur. I have a desire to serve the community and to be part of our justice system. I’d always been interested in corporate law and civil law. I love reading, writing, and researching.