M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, [Mehta I]

(Ganga Pollution Case) 
Date of Judgment: 22/09/1987 
Equivalent citations: [1987] 4 SCC 463 
Petitioner: M.C. Mehta
Respondent: Union Of India & Ors
Bench: Venkataramiah, E.S. (J)


Emanating from the Himalayas, the Ganga flows south after which eastwards and drains itself into the Bay of Bengal. The duration of the river is 2,525 km and has been the lifeline of many civilizations in India. It is one of the maximum sacred rivers to the Hindus as they’re maximum dedicated to this and a lifeline to 1000000000 Indians who stay alongside its route. One of the maximum populated towns alongside its route is Kanpur. This town has a populace of approx. 29.2 lakhs (2.nine million) with having massive business sectors. At this juncture of its route, Ganga gets massive quantities of poisonous waste from the town´s home and business sectors, specifically the leather-based tanneries of Kanpur. The wastewater from this enterprise contains “putrescible natural and poisonous inorganic material” while discharged withinside the water will expand the extent of dissolved oxygen withinside the water body and could cause the death of aquatic existence and could motive damage to any man or woman who consumes this water. In 1985, a lawyer and social activist Mr. M.C. Mehta filed a writ petition with inside the nature of mandamus to save you those leather-based tanneries from disposing of home and business waste and effluents inside the Ganga River. 


This case became public hobby litigation provided earlier than a Division Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising of E.S. Venkataramiah and K.N. Singh, JJ. The petitioner M.C. Mehta, who became an environmental attorney in addition to an energetic social employee had filed this petition inter alia for the difficulty of a writ/order/route withinside the nature of mandamus to the respondents restraining them from letting out the exchange effluents into River Ganga till the time they placed up vital remedy flowers for treating the exchange effluents to be able to arrest the pollutants of water at the stated river. The courtroom docket ruling began in 1985 withinside the holy town of Haridwar placed alongside the banks of the circulated Ganga while a matchstick flung through a smoker resulted withinside the river bursting into flames for over 30 hours. The hearthplace became located to be a result of the presence of a dangerous inflammable compound layer over the waters. The Court had believed the difficulty to be one in all high significance, however, the sizeable length of the case, i.e., the stretch of the river, became observed to be troublesome. 

What is Trade Effluents

Trade Effluents consist of any liquid, gaseous or strong substance that is discharged from any premises used for wearing on any exchange or enterprise, aside from home sewage. The State Board is likewise entrusted with the paintings of laying down requirements of remedy of sewage and exchange effluents to be discharged into any unique circulate thinking of the minimal fair-climate dilution to be had in that circulate and the tolerance limits of pollutants permissible withinside the water of the circulate, after the release of such effluents. The discharge of such exchange effluents into the river has seemed like a ‘public nuisance’ withinside the immediate case. A public nuisance is a crook wrong. It is an act or an omission that obstructs damages, or reasons inconvenience to the proper of the network. It also can be described as an act that interferes with the overall network hobby or the consolation of the general public at massive. The acts or omissions taken into consideration as a public nuisance are inexhaustive. The provision unearths an area in Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

 Issue Raised

 • Whether all of the leather-based tanneries had at the least installation a number one remedy plant?

 • Whether the State Government had paid interest to the worsening circumstance of the sacred river and had initiated probation into the matter? • Whether any steps, if at all, were taken through the state?

 • What all steps ought to the Central Government should take to alter pollutant discharge into the river all through its route?

Related Provisions 

The case reminds the residents of the essential responsibility to shield the surroundings as enshrined beneath neath Article 51A(g) which instructs the residents to strive “to shield and enhance the herbal surroundings inclusive of forests, lakes, rivers and flora, and fauna, and to have compassion for residing creatures”[2]. Protection of the surroundings has additionally seemed because the responsibility of the State beneath neath Article 48A of the Directive Principles of State Policy which says that “the State shall Endeavour to shield and enhance the surroundings and to protect the forests and flora and fauna of the country”[3]. The courtroom docket tested the applicable provisions of The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 which became enacted in pursuance of a decision surpassed through numerous States beneath neath Article 252(1) of the Indian Constitution requiring a Parliamentary law to manipulate and save you water pollutants in those states. The Act became then followed through Uttar Pradesh in 1975. Section 24 of the Act prohibits using any flow or properly for disposal of polluting remember. It lays down that “no man or woman shall knowingly purpose or allow any poisonous, noxious or polluting remember decided following such requirements as can be laid down through the State Board to go into (whether or not immediately or indirectly) into any flow or properly or sewer or on land; or no man or woman shall knowingly purpose or allow to go into any flow some other remember which might also additionally tend, both immediately or in mixture with comparable matters, to obstruct the right float of the water of the flow in a way main or probable to cause an extensive aggravation of pollutants because of different reasons or of its consequence”[4]. The time period ‘flow’ is described beneath neath Sec. 2(j) of the Act in step with which a flow includes “(i) river; (ii) watercourse (whether or not flowing or at the moment dry); (iii) inland water (whether or not herbal or artificial); (iv) sub-terranean waters; (v) sea or tidal waters to such volume or, because the case can be, to such factor because the State Government might also additionally, through notification with inside the Official Gazette, specify on this behalf”[5]. The establishment of Central and State Boards had been taken into consideration permissible beneath neath the stated Act. The features of those Central and State forums had been set down beneath neath Sections sixteen and 17 respectively beneath neath which one of the obligations of the State Board is to look into sewage or exchange effluents, works and vegetation for the remedy of sewage and exchange effluents, and to check plans, specs or different facts referring to vegetation installation for the remedy of waterworks for the purification and the machine for the disposal of sewage or exchange effluents. The State Boards are entrusted with any other challenge of laying down requirements of remedy of sewage and exchange effluents to be discharged into any precise flow contemplating the minimal fair-climate dilution to be had in that flow and the tolerance limits of pollutants permissible with inside the water of the flow, after the release of such effluents. The State Board has additionally been delegated the strength of creating software to courts for restraining apprehended pollutants of water in streams or wells. Moreover, the Parliament has additionally surpassed the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Section 3(2)(iv) of the Act lets the Central authorities put down one-of-a-kind requirements for emission or discharge from one-of-a-kind reasserts having regard to the exceptional or composition of the emission or discharge of environmental pollution from such reasserts. Section nine of the stated Act obliges all of us to take steps to save you/mitigate environmental pollutants. Section 15 of the stated Act consists of provisions concerning consequences that can be imposed for the contravention of any of the provisions of the stated Act or guidelines issued thereunder.


 Petitioners Contention

• The Petitioner had grieved that neither the government nor the human beings, whose lives had been intricately related with the river and directed stricken by it, appeared to be worried approximately the growing degrees of pollutants of the Ganga and vital steps had been required to save you the same.

• The Petitioner, with inside the capability of an energetic social worker, had consequently sought a writ/route/order with inside the nature of mandamus, directing inter alia inhibiting the Respondents from liberating poisonous effluents into the Ganga till they combine suitable remedy vegetation to deal with the effluents to forestall water pollutants.

 Respondents contentions 

• None of the tanneries disputed the truth that the effluent discharge from the tanneries grossly pollutes the Ganga.

• It became said that they discharge the exchange effluents into the sewage nullah, which results in the Municipal Sewage Plants earlier than discharge into the river.”

• Some tanneries said that they have got already had number one remedy vegetation, at the same time as a few are currently engaged with inside the same.”

• Some of the tanneries who had been contributors of the Hindustan Chambers of Commerce and a number of the opposite tanneries assured that with the approval of Respondent 8 (State Board), they might assemble number one remedy vegetation which might be operational inside a duration of six months from the date of listening to and in failing to do so, will close down their tanneries.”

• However, they argued that it might now no longer be viable for them to set up secondary remedy vegetation to deal with the wastewater similarly as it might contain big expenditure that is past their means.”


Supreme Court held that as in step with the proceeding, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 has no powerful steps that had been taken through the State Board to manipulate or save you the release of effluent into the River Ganga. Also, no matter the provisions withinside the Environment Protection Act, no powerful steps had been taken through the Central Government to save you the Public Nuisance due to the tanneries at Kanpur. The Court ordered the tanneries to set up number one remedy vegetation if now no longer Secondary remedies Plants. That is the minimal which the tanneries need to do with inside the instances of the case. To save you Ganga River to get much less polluted. The Court similarly held that monetary capability of the tanneries need to be taken into consideration as irrelavent at the same time as requiring them to set up number one remedy vegetation. Just like an enterprise which can’t pay minimal wages to its employees can’t be allowed to exist a tannery which can’t installation a number one remedy plant aren’t accredited to stay in lifestyles for the damaging impact on the general public at big that is probable to make certain through the discharching of the exchange effluents from the tannery to the River Ganga might be sizeable and it’s going to outweigh any inconvenience that can be triggered to the control and the hard work hired through it attributable to its closure.

Ration Decidendi

  1. It is the responsibility of the Central Government to direct all of the instructional establishments all through India to train at the least for one hour per week instructions referring to the safety and the development of the herbal surroundings inclusive of forests, lakes, rivers and flora and fauna with inside the first ten classes. 
  2. The Central Government shall get textual content books written for the stated cause and distribute them to the academic establishments freed from cost. Children need to be trained approximately the want for keeping cleanliness starting off with the cleanliness of the residence each internal and outside, and of the streets wherein they live. A clean environment causes a healthful frame and a healthful mind. The training of instructors who train this difficulty through the creation of short-time period guides for such education shall additionally be taken into consideration. This needs to be executed all through India. 


The case analyzed above brings out the importance of the surroundings and the way people are disrupting its herbal balance. The case mandated the industries in India to installation a number one remedy plant compulsorily and advised the government worried to take steps inside the route of curtailing the release of dangerous effluents into the water-bodies (River Ganga with in the spontaneous case). Inconvenience triggered to any of the industries through manner of this precise requirement might be taken into consideration inappropriate and it must be taken into consideration as a number one requirement given the negative impact that those effluents could have at the surroundings.

 Critical Analysis 

India has an outstanding environmental history which may be as a result of its biodiversity. The Ganga pollutants case may be a very critical case and primary of its very own type in which superb courtroom docket cleared that improvement can’t be executed at the fee of surroundings. Then additionally the judgment appeared to be failed because the river Ganga remains polluted. Although there had been numerous schemes campaigns through the authorities like the Namami Ganga cleanup campaign – the Ganga River Basin Management Plan and the National Mission for Clean Ganga they all to this point proved similarly ineffective. I take complete schemes and plans we will finish that the largest impediment for the Ganga cleanup isn’t the money, tools, or practices, eleven though those are very significant. Instead, it’s miles whether or not India as an entire is prepared to take a stand and has the countrywide spirit and the capability to apply those a long time of targeted funding and control to make certain that through mid-century Indians can swim, fish, and drink effectively from the mom river. So, it calls for we the human beings protected and it might now no longer acquire this.

Shubhi Shukla
“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” I am Ms. Shubhi Shukla an ambitious girl whose aim in life is to hone my skills and widen my repertoire as far as possible. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s in Arts and Law [B.A.LL.B(Hons.)] from Faculty of Law, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. I didn’t enter this realm of law by my volition but I’m dead certain that I’ll make it my métier and my playground. Comprehending laws that governs societies, absorbing knowledge about every aspects about it and having rational thinking are of primary importance to me as a law student. I try not to talk too much but to walk the talk, I hope to learn with every new opportunity and contribute for others as well.