In the Supreme Court of India 1980 AIR 1622, 1981 SCR (1) 97 Appellants Municipal Council, Ratlam Respondents Shri Vardhichand & ors. Date of Judgement 29 July, 1980 Bench Justice Krishnaiyer, V.R.
“Environment and life are interlinked and the extent of life on this planet be contingent on the tuneful association amid the ecosystem and environment.” Every single human being, from the time of his birth, obtains definite rights. One such virtue is the right to reside in an unstained environment.
While making of the Constitution of India, there was no rising of determined clause connected to the safeguard of environment or protection of nature. The troubles were frequent in the past also but they were very grave as the living of the people was manageable and there were not many manufacturing units, conveying facilities etc., but now with the furtherance in machineries and area of study, the problems have become far-reaching. “In India, around 70% of the populace undeviating depends on the land-based employment, forests, wetlands, and seawater habitats, for basic livelihood needs with regards to water, food, fuel, accommodation, forage, and medication as also for ecological living sustenance and heritage sustenance.”
The initial metamorphosis contemplates a global union on the nature and extent of the environment ultimatum tackling the world community was the Stockholm conference. The proclamation does not bestow for the denotation of the environment. The crucial quintessence of the pronouncement is the “man has the elementary right to liberty, fairness and suitable state of life, in an environment of a caliber that allows a life of grandeur and well-being and he carries a sincere duty to conserve and revamp the environment for current and future peer group.” The meeting takes into consideration the fact that the environment may oppose the very extant of mankind as it has gigantic influence on the life of humankind and constant moderation or distress.
The doctrine of ‘sustainable development’ came to be acknowledging in this memorandum which states that there must be equilibrium amid progress and ecology. “Economic development without environmental inspection can result in serious environmental vandalization infecting the quality of life of the populace, both current and subsequent time period.” Therefore, there is an intense necessity to retain equilibrium amid the needs of development and the degree of environmental protection in order to guarantee sustainable development. Since pollution is the prime reason of environmental assessment and of variation, so, pollution regulation will be of greater magnitude for sustainable development.[i]
Facts of the case:
The civilians (respondents) of a well-known residential locality of the Municipality (petitioner) in their complaint as per section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code which prescribes for the conditional decree for removal of nuisance.
(1) Whenever a District Magistrate or a Sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate specially authorized in this regard by the Government of a state, on getting the report of a police officer or other particulars and on taking such evidence (if any) as he deems appropriate, considers-
(a) That any illegal nuisance must be eliminated from any public space or from anyway, river or channel which is or may be legitimately used by the civilians; or
(b) That the operations of any business or occupation, or the keeping of any commodities or merchandise, is obnoxious to the health or against the convenience of the community, and that in outcome such business or occupation should be banned or managed or such commodities or merchandise should be eliminated or the keeping thereof regulated; or
(c) That the construction of any building, or, the discarding of any substance, as is likely to cause an explosion, should be or stopped; or
(d) That any building or structure, or any tree is in such a state that will probably fall and thereby cause injury to persons living or carrying on business operations in the neighborhood or passing by, and that in result the removal of such building or the removal of support of such tree, is essential; or
(e) That any tank, well or unearthing close to any such way or public place should be circumscribed in such mode as to avert hazard arising against the civilians; or
(f) that any threatening wildlife creature should be destroyed, restricted or otherwise disposed of, such Magistrate may make a conditional order asking the person causing such hindrance or nuisance, or carrying on such business operation or occupation, or keeping any commodities or products, or owning, possessing or controlling such building, tent, structure, substance, tank, well or excavation, or retaining or possessing such wildlife creature or tree, within a time period to be specified in the order-
(i) To clear such hindrance or nuisance; or
(ii) To abstain from continuing, or to remove or control in such mode as may be prescribed, such business or employment, or to discard such commodities or products, or to control the keeping thereof in such mode as may be prescribed; or
(iii) To avert or halt the construction of such building, or to modify the method of discarding of such substance; or
(iv) To eliminate, restore or support such building, tent or structure, or to remove or uphold such trees; or
(v) To circumscribe such tank, well or unearthing; or
(vi) To eliminate, restrict or discard such perilous wildlife creature in the mode prescribed in the said order; or, if he opposes to do so, to appear before himself or some other Executive Magistrate lower in rank to him at a certain time and place to be specified in the Order, and show reasons, in the mode hereinafter prescribed, why the order should not be made final.
(2) No order duly passed by a Magistrate under this section shall subject to doubt in any Civil Court of Law. Explanation- A” public place” comprises also property possessed by the State, dumping grounds and grounds left idle for hygienic or re-creative purposes[ii]; to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate mentioned that the Municipality had been unsuccessful in spite of several pleas, to discharge their basic duties such as clause of hygienic facilities on the roads, civilian amenities for slum dwellers who were using the road for that motive, and avoidance of the release from the nearby alcohol Plant of decomposed fluids into the public street. The Municipality was unaware of the statutory duty enshrined in section 123 of the M. P. Municipalities Act, 1961.
The Municipal Council contested the petition on the ground that the owners of houses had gone to that locality on their own choice, fully aware of the unsanitary conditions and therefore they could not complain. It also pleaded financial difficulties in the construction of drains and the provision of amenities. The Magistrate found the facts authenticated and instructed the municipality to dispense the facilities and to reduce the nuisance by building drain pipes with flow of water to clean the filth and stop the stench and that failure would entail prosecution under the section of 188 I.P.C. which provides the disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.—Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction, shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any person lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both; and if such disobedience causes or trends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.[iii]
The order of the Magistrate was found unjustified by the Sessions Court, but upheld by the High Court.
For a person to live an exalted life, a clean environment is a compulsory pre-requisite. But then, in order to sustain a healthy environment, we have to lose out on another characteristic, that is, the Right to Development. India is a developing nation and in order to grapple globally as a whole, development of our nation is really imperative. Development is vital to ensure the attainment of all civilian rights and fundamental liberties. “Industry is essential for the development of a nation and for meeting the multiplying requirements of the civilians. At the same time, it has a pessimistic aftermath on the environment as it extricates substances from natural resources and introduces both products and contamination into the human environment.” Industries are the root cause of an unhealthy environment, thereby, cause behind the infringement of Article 21 of the Constitution. So, for that such industry that generates deadly substances and endangers the surroundings are needed to be closed which is the best possible way to halt the contamination at its roots. But again, that means we are restricting our nation from development. The population is expanding at a faster pace and therefore, there is a sore requisite to cut trees in order to provide civilians with shelter and trees are also necessitated for the industrial impetus to attain their needs. This implies that we have no other alternative left rather dismantle the environment. So, a man’s haphazard use of land, water, and the air had considerably impaired their worth so that they are no longer fit even for his own needs and demands.
Although populace can be regulated if people are made known, if they will get an education but then also till what limit it is practicable. Still population will continue to grow; they will continue to multiply their needs in terms of shelter, luxuries, etc. According to the principal Gandhian outlook, “Nature has served everything for our necessity but not for acquisitiveness.” If they be vetoed to cut trees in order to get secured, then again that means they are being repudiated their right to live, that is, their right to life and individual freedom are infringed.
If an occupation is enabled to proceed further, there may be an irretrievable vandalization to the environment and if it is terminated, then, there may be irrecoverable mutilation to fiscal interest. Then the other solution could be that the industries can be transferred. But does that untangle the complication? To certain limits it does elucidate the problem but what about the claims of those employees who are employed in such production units. They have to surrender their lives to their families. It is not attainable to ensure this claim to all as there are some who are left, that is, the individuals who toil for such industries. The poverty-stricken people have to carry the main stress of these environmental problems.
Verdict of the case:
1. The Magistrate court held that the said dirty Nallah is in between the main road of Ratlam City. This dirty Nallah affects the Mohalla of New Road, Shastri Colony, Volga Talkies and it is just in the heart of the city. This is the very important road and is between the Railway Station and the main city. In these mohallas, cultured and educated people are living. The Nallah which flows in between the New Road and Shastri Colony the water is not flowing rapidly and, on many places, there are deep pits in which the dirty water is accumulated. The Nallah is also not straight that is also the reason of the accumulation of dirty water. The Nallah is not managed properly by the no- applicants. It is unable to gush the rainy water and due to this the adjoining areas always suffer from over-flowing of the water and it causes obstruction to the pedestrians.
It is also proved by the evidence given by the applicants that from time to time the Power Alcohol factory which is situated outside the premises of the Municipal Council and it flows its dirty and filthy water into the said Nallah, due to this also the obnoxious smell is spreading throughout the New Road or so it is the bounden duty of the Municipal Council and the Town Improvement Trust to do the needful in this respect.
The dirty water which flows from the lavatories and urinals of the residential houses has no outlet and due to this reason, there are many pits on the southern side of the New Road and all the pits are full of dirty and stinking water. So, it is quite necessary to construct an outlet for the dirty water in the said locality.
2. The High court also upheld the order of the magistrate and issued further guidelines:
(a) The Town Development Trust with the assistance of the Municipal Council must formulate a full proof plan of action to ensure the proper flow in the said Nallah which is flowing amid Shastri Colony and New Road. Both the note- applicants must formulate the plan of action within six months and they should take appropriate action to give it a strong and definite form.
(b) A few places are described which are either having the same drains and the other area is having no drain and due to this the water stinks there; so, the Municipal Council and the Town Development Trust must build the appropriate drainage set-up and within their own establishments where there is no drain it must be constructed promptly and all this work should be completed within six months.
(c) The Municipal Council should build drains starting from the jail till the bridge behind the southern side of the houses which will be beneficial as the water flowing from the infected tanks and also the other water flowing outside the residential houses may be channelized and it may stop stinking and it should have a proper flow so that the water may go easily towards the main Nallah. All these drains should be built absolutely within six months by the Municipal Council.
3. The Supreme Court viewed the decision of the high court as appropriate and issued supplementary instructions:
(a) We direct the Ratlam Municipal Council (Respondent 1) to take immediate action, within its statutory powers, to stop the effluents from the Alcohol Plant flowing into the street. The State Administration must also act to stop the pollution. The Sub Divisional Magistrate will also exercise his authority under section133of Indian Penal Code to decrease the nuisance so resulted. Industries cannot earn profit at the risk of civilians’ health.
(b) The Municipal Council shall, within six months from today, construct a sufficient number of public latrines for use by men and women separately, provide water supply and scavenging service morning and evening so as to ensure sanitation. The health officer of the municipality will furnish a report, at the end of the six-monthly term, that the work has been completed. We need hardly say that the civilians will be trained in using and maintaining these toilets in hygienic state. Conscious cooperation of the consumers is too important to be neglected by representative bodies.
(c) We have no hesitation in holding that if these directions do not comply with the Sub Divisional Magistrate will prosecute the officers responsibly. Indeed, this court will also consider action to punish for contempt in case of a report by the Sub Divisional Magistrate of willful breach by any officer.
Analysis of the case:
This case has indirectly included the concept of tort consciousness. The dynamics of the judicial process has a new ‘enforcement’ dimension not merely through some of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code case as a neutral onlooker but relentlessly enforcing the laws when people in misery cry for justice. The municipal corporation cannot take the immunity of the non-availability of funds so as to avoid the duty of public welfare. The concerned authority may approach the financial institutions for the purpose of loans and utilize these funds for removing the disturbing nuisance.
The officers in charge and even the elected representatives will have to face the penalty of the law if what the Constitution and follow-up legislation direct them to do are defied or denied wrongfully. The wages of violation are punishment, corporate and personal.[iv]
Earlier article 21 of the Constitution had a bit constricted sphere but with the need of the hour, the notion of article 21 has been enlarged. The Judiciary has played a crucial role in expounding the article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The purview of article 21 of the Constitution has been considerably broadening by the Supreme Court of India, which has clarified the right of life to signify the right to live a dignified life and it also consists of the right to a healthy environment. But the Constitution does not directly cater for the citizen’s right to a clean and safe environment.
Earlier in the primordial time period, the threats of the environment were not that acknowledged but now with the revolutionary technology and expanding populace the unpropitious outcome are lucidly recognized. Industries add to the environmental contamination which manifests to be very noxious for the well-being of the civilians, thereby, vandalizing their right to life. Then smoking is also the major cause of the contamination in the environment. Although many decrees have been passed against smoking nothing advantageous is coming out. If the judgments were to hold any sense then, no citizen in India should have now been smoking in a public location. Environmental preservation is the chief responsibility of the current times. It is the, most crucial necessity, because a non-contaminated environment is a prime requisite for the well-being and safety of humankind.
Additionally, environment and development are deemed to be the two aspects of the same coin. Any one of these cannot be abdicated for the other. Rather, both are primarily significant for the welfare of our coming generation. But nonetheless, without worrying about the loss of private profit, the priority has to be given to the public well-being and to the hygienic environment. The paramount duty lies in the courts to deal with these matters systematically and with great attention.
Such kind of environmental matters can be adjudicated fairly if people are literate and are knowledgeable of their acts. Also, the administration has to take austere operation with proper supervision against the dangerous industries. Each citizen shall have the possibility to approach the data regarding the environment. States shall ensure and motivate public literacy and contribution by making information largely accessible.
A hygienic environment is an utmost requirement for the well-being of all living beings.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
What was held in this case?
The Supreme Court viewed the decision of the high court as appropriate and issued supplementary instructions:
(a) We direct the Ratlam Municipal Council (Respondent 1) to take immediate action, within its statutory powers, to stop the effluents from the Alcohol Plant flowing into the street. The State Administration must also act to stop the pollution. The Sub Divisional Magistrate will also exercise his authority under section 133 of Indian Penal Code to decrease the nuisance so resulted. Industries cannot earn profit at the risk of civilians’ health.
(b) The Municipal Council shall, within six months from today, construct a sufficient number of public latrines for use by men and women separately, provide water supply and scavenging service morning and evening so as to ensure sanitation. The health officer of the municipality will furnish a report, at the end of the six-monthly term, that the work has been completed. We need hardly say that the civilians will be trained in using and maintaining these toilets in a hygienic state. Conscious cooperation of the consumers is too important to be neglected by representative bodies.
(c) We have no hesitation in holding that if these directions do not comply with the Sub Divisional Magistrate will prosecute the officers responsibly. Indeed, this court will also consider action to punish for contempt in case of the report by the Sub Divisional Magistrate of willful breach by any officer.
How environmental issues can be handled and whose participation can be relevant in this context?
Environmental matters can be adjudicated fairly if people are literate and are knowledgeable of their acts. Also, the administration has to take austere operation with proper supervision against the dangerous industries. Each citizen shall have the possibility to approach the data regarding the environment. States shall ensure and motivate public literacy and contribution by making information largely accessible.
How this case is important and the environmental concern and the environmental rights falls under which article of the Constitution?
The case commentary of Municipal Corporation, Ratlam v. Shri Vardhichand and ors. in the light of right to live in a healthy environment. This case analyses in-depth the article 21 as “Article 21 protects the right to life as a fundamental right. Delectation of life and its realization consists of the right to life with human majesty circumscribes within its ambit, the safeguard and prolongations of environment, eco-friendly equilibrium exempted from contamination of air and water and all-round cleanliness without which life cannot be relished.
[i] https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/human-rights/right-to-clean-environment.php, last seen 12:30, 29/12/2018.
[ii] B.S.Khetrapal, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973(IIIrd , Puja Khetrapal, 2013)
[iii] B.M. Gandhi, Indian Penal Code, 1860(IVth, Abhinandan Malik, 2017)
[iv] Dr. J.J.R. Upadhyay, Environmental Law (IVth, J.J.R. Upadhyay, 2017)