Supreme Court of India 1987 AIR 1086, 1987 SCR (1) 819 Council of Appellant: M.C. Mehta & anr Counil of Respondentes Union Of India & Ors Decided on 20 December 1986 Bench: Bhagwati, P.N. (Cj)
This case lies between C. Mehta and Anr V Union of India. It is popularly known as the Taj Trapezium case. The writ petition was filed by M.C. Mehta, along with the petition a report was attached. Taj is considered one of the best Mughal architecture in India. The defined area of 10400 sqkm was built around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution. Such an area was known as Taj Trapezium Zone. The Trapezium-shaped area around the Taj Mahal is covering 5 districts in the region of Agra. In the year 1983, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. M.C. Mehta was a public interest Lawyer who visited the Taj Mahal in the year 1984.
- It was stated by the petitioner that the reasons behind the monument’s degradation were the chemical industries, refinery, and the foundries. Various emissions of gases like Sulphur- dioxide with oxygen led to damage of the monument. This mixture turned into the acid rain, due to which the moisture in the atmosphere was retained which resulted into “Acid rain”.
- Such rains where harmful for the marbles which were laid on the Taj Mahal. This was slowly damaging the monument. The damage was quite visible, as it turned out to be a yellow pallor on the marbles.
- At some other places on Taj Mahal, there were brown and black spots as well they were easily magnified with the Yellow spots.
- If the damage had not been considered seriously and immediately it would lead serious danger to the monument. It was on its way to degradation due to the harmful effects of the pollution. Some of the effective measures needed to be taken to save the Taj Mahal from disrupting its reputation internationally.
- The petitioner, therefore, requested the court to take measures for the preservation of the monument.
- A report named “Inventory and Assessment of Pollution Emission in and Around Agra-Mathura Region” was published by the Central Board for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution. They declared some level of pollution via statistics, which resulted to be very high. The report also stated some measures. According to report 2, thermal power stations needed to be closed down. Along with that, they needed to be replaced with diesel in railway yards.
- The emissions of Sulphur dioxide needed to be cut down up to 50%.
- Taj was moving towards its destruction and damage; such deterioration was well acknowledged by the court. The court also keenly observed that such damage was not only by the traditional causes but there were other various socio and economic factors.
- Different expert authorities submitted various reports by stating the air pollutants generated from industries have harmful effects on the marble of Taj Mahal. It is also affecting the people living in the Taj Trapezium Zone. The pollution in TTZ has to be reduced.
- The court ordered that the industries which are not in the position to obtain gas connections shall stop their functioning with the aid of coke/coal in TTZ and they may have to relocate themselves.
- The applications for the grant of gas connections will be finalized by the Gas Authority Of India Limited (GAIL).
- The court further stated that 292 Industries shall change over the natural gas as an industrial fuel. The court also gave certain rights and benefits to the workmen employed in these 292 Industries.
- The workmen shall continue employment at the new town and place where the industry is shifted. The period between the closure of the industry in Agra and its restart at the place of relocation shall be treated as active employment and the workmen shall be paid.
Comment on case
The judgment became a landmark one for environmental law jurisprudence in India. Authorities reported a significant reduction of Suspended Particulate Matter which is one of the pollutants causing discoloration of the Taj Mahal. This judgment is also a commendable move of the Supreme Court since the court has not only ordered effective countermeasures but also kept the rights and benefits of employees working in the industries secure.
In this landmark judgment, the Supreme Court espoused the cause of protection of national heritages such as the Taj Mahal from deterioration and damage due to atmospheric and environmental pollution. The Court based its judgment on the Precautionary Principle and Polluter Pays Principle, thereby, making them an integral part of the environmental jurisprudence of our country. The Supreme Court has assumed a proactive role and made liberal use of the public interest litigation in protecting fundamental environmental interests. The judicial activism exercised by the Supreme Court for the protection of the environment, in this case, demonstrates the increasing significance of environmental litigation in India.