Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar and Ors.

Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar and Ors.
Before the High Court of Bihar
AIR 1991 SC 420
Subhash Kumar
State of Bihar and Ors.
Date of Judgement

09 January 1991
Justice K.N. Singh; Justice N.D. Ojha


In the present case, wide interpretation has been given to Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. Article 32 of the Constitution was intended and designed for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens by the Supreme Court. It is an extraordinary procedure provided in the Constitution which safeguards the rights of an individual. The right to live is a Fundamental Right guaranteed in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and guarantees the pollution-free environment and water to an individual. If anything endangers the quality of life of an individual in derogation of laws, a citizen is guaranteed with the remedy in Article 32 of the Constitution for the removal of the pollution so caused affecting the quality of life. A petition is maintainable for the prevention of pollution by affected persons or group of affected persons under Article 32 of the Constitution. Public Interest Litigation cannot be pleaded by a person or group of persons to satisfy his/her personal grudge or enmity. If such petitions are maintained and entertained under Article 32 it would amount to manipulation of the process of the Court, preventing remedy to genuine Petitioners, personal interests cannot be enforced by the Court’s process in the garb of a PIL. Public Interest Litigation anticipates legal proceedings for the enforcement of fundamental rights of individuals who are not able to enforce their rights. A person should approach the court for the enforcement of rights of an individual not for the vindication of enmity. It is the duty of the court not to entertain such petitions and ensure that gross miscarriage of justice has not been caused to any individual.


The petition was filed by the way of Public Interest Litigation by Subhash Kumar for preventing the pollution of the water of the river Bokaro from the discharge of sludge/slurry from the washeries of Tata Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. The Petitioner alleged that the Parliament enacted Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1978 for maintaining the wholesomeness of water and for the prevention of water pollution. The State Pollution Control Board was constituted for the implementation of the functions provided in Section 17 of the said Act, the Board is advised to inspect the trade effluents and plants for the treatment of sewage and to review data and specifications for the treatment of water. Section 24 of the said act provides that no person should knowingly cause or authorize any poisonous or polluting matter in the river. The Petitioner asserted that the Tata Iron and Steel Co carried mining operations in the town of Jamshedpur which are also known as West Bokaro Collieries.

It was alleged by the Petitioner that the waste in form of slurry is discharged as effluent in the Bokaro River from the washeries which get deposited on the bed of the River and get settled on the land including Plot No.170 which is Petitioner’s land. He also said that the sludge so discharged gets absorbed on the agricultural land leaving a fine film of carboniferous. He further alleges that the discharge of the sludge from the washeries also pollute the water as a result of which the water cannot be used for irrigation purposes or drinking. Despite several representations, The State Pollution Control Board failed to take actions against the Company and permitted the pollution of the water and the State of Bihar instead of taking actions, it is granting a lease on the payment of royalty for collection of slurry to various persons.

He has, accordingly, claimed relief for the issue of direction directing the Respondents which include the State of Bihar, the Bihar Pollution Control Board, Union of India and Tata Iron & Steel Co., to take immediate steps prohibiting the pollution of the Bokaro river water from the discharge of slurry into the Bokaro river and to take further action under provisions of the Act against the Tata Iron & Steel Co. In the counter-affidavit filed by the respondents the discharge of slurry through washeries in the river Bokaro, polluting the same and no actions being taken by the Board has been completely denied.

Statutes and Provisions Discussed:

  • Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, 1950.
  • Section 25 and 26 of Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974.
  • Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, 1950.

Issues Raised:

  • Whether the water of the river Bokaro is polluted by the discharge of sludge/slurry from the washeries of the Respondent’s Company?

Arguments Advanced:

Arguments on the behalf of Petitioner:

It has been contended by the Petitioner that the surplus waste discharged in the form of sludge/slurry as effluent from washeries in the river, leaves the carboniferous product on the soil, which affects the fertility of the land. He further alleged that the water flowing to distant places is neither fit for drinking nor for irrigation purposes and the continuous discharge of sludge from Tata Iron & Steel Co. poses a heavy amount of risks to the health of people. It has also asserted that after making continuous requests no actions have been taken by the State of Bihar and even is granting royalty on payment of leases. In his plea he has claimed relief for the issue of direction by directing the State of Bihar, Bihar Pollution Control Board and has pleaded immediate steps for curbing pollution in the Bokaro river from the discharge of sludge from Tata Iron and Steel & Co.

Arguments on behalf of Respondents:

The counsels for the respondents contended that the Bihar Pollution Control Board has taken all the necessary steps to prevent the pollution in the Bokaro river. The Tata Iron & Steel Co. has been granted sanction from the Board for discharging effluents from their outlets under Sections 25 and 26 of the Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974. Before granting the discharge of the effluents to the Bokaro River, the Board has analyzed and monitored that the effluents generated from the washeries did not pollute the river. It was said by the respondents that to prevent the pollution in the Bokaro River, the Board issued direction to the Director of the Collieries to take necessary steps for improving the quality of the river. It was further asserted by the respondents that four ponds were constructed to increase the storing capacity of the effluents. The effluent was monitored by the Pollution Board; an inspection was carried out by the Board of the settling tanks for the treatment of effluent from the washeries on 20th June 1988. It was found on the inspection that the four settling tanks installed were completed and there was no discharge from the effluents was found except that there was near to negligible seepage from the embankment.

It was further said that no discharge of the effluent was found in the Bokaro River and was no question of pollution of the river and hence the fertility of the land was also not affected. The respondents negate allegations made in the petition against them and have stated that the effective steps have been taken to prevent the discharge of sludge from washeries in the Bokaro River. A fact was also stated by the Respondents that the Bokaro River remains dry during 9 months and therefore no question of pollution from the discharge of slurry can be raised, the slurry settled in the pond was considered for sale as the carboniferous materials found in the slurry are very important and valuable for the purpose of fuel. It was made sure by the Company that no slurry escaped from the pond as it is highly valuable of fuel generation. Since the slurry has a high market value the company cannot afford to let it go waste in the river and for the same necessary steps has been taken by the Company that no slurry escapes in the pond. It was further said by the Respondents that Company complied with the directions stated under the State Pollution Control Board Act, 1974.


The Court in the present case held that the present petition was not filed keeping in view the public interest rather it is filed for self-interest. It was noted by the court that the materials on record show that petition was filed in the personal interest, keeping in view the facts the Court dismissed the present petition. The Court directed the Petitioner to pay Rs. 5,000/- as costs to the Respondents.

Ratio Decidendi:

It was clear from the facts that and pleadings on behalf of the Respondent that there was no good reason to accept Petitioner’s contentions that the water of Bokaro River was polluted by the discharge of slurry/sludge from the washeries of the respondent Company, on the other hand, the bench found that effective steps were taken by State Pollution Control Board to check pollution. The counter-affidavits filed on the behalf of Respondents show that the petitioner has been purchasing slurry from Respondents for the last several years, he wanted more slurry with the passage of time but the respondent company denied accepting his request. As the Petitioner was an influential businessman and has obtained a license for coal trading, he tried to put pressure on the Respondents to supply him with more quantity of slurry, when the Respondents denied him he started harassing the respondents. Several proceedings were initiated by the Petitioner before the Patna High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution for permitting him to collect slurry from raiyati land. The court did not consider delving into greater detail as the present petition was not filed in the public interest instead it has been made in self-interest.


Article 32 of the Indian Constitution is designed for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights of a citizen by the Supreme Court; it is an extraordinary procedure to safeguard the rights of a citizen. The Right to live is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and guarantees a citizen to live in pollution-free water and air. A person cannot invoke Public Interest Litigation to satisfy his personal grudge. The present petition is not maintainable as it was not filed in the public interest and was the result of a personal grudge.

Edited by Parul Soni

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Aditi Mishra
I am Aditi Mishra, a first year student pursuing B.A.LLB (Hons.) from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur. I am capable of working in fast-paced environment and of meeting strict deadlines, being a Law student my interest lies in Constitutional Law , Penal Laws and Public International Law. In my free times I indulge myself in cooking and baking, apart from this my interest also lies in debating and reading fictions. At last, I am able to work independently and as part of a team and can make valuable contributions to any legal team.