Indian Enviro Legal Council v. Union Of India

Authored By – Anchita Srivastava, Amity Law School, Amity University Lucknow
Edited By – Rajarshi Tripathi


India is working on the cases through which it can establish strong environmental laws. However, In the case of  “Indian Council for Enviro Legal Action v. Union Of India”, the SC issued a significant judgement on 8th March 1999 related to environmental pollution arising from chemical industrial plants in India. The court emphasised the non-compliance with legal and environmental regulations by certain industrialists, resulting in severe pollution in the villages. The judgement underscored the “Polluter Pay Principle” and “Strict/Absolute Liability” in Environmental matters. The court mandated the closure of the offending plants and directed them (respondents) to bear the losses create by the plants also bear the costs of remedial measures. This case set a precedent for holding industries accountable for environmental harm and ensuring adherence to environmental laws.

KeywordsEnvironmental Pollution, Absolute/Strict Liability, Polluter Pays Principle, Remedial Measures, Water Pollution.


Judgement Cause Title / Case NameIndian Council for Enviro Legal Action v. Union Of India
Case NumberSCC 293 : 1999
Judgement Date08-03-1999
CourtSupreme court
Quorum / Constitution of Bench2
Author / Name of JudgesJeevan Reddy And Kirpal B.N.
Citation1996 AIR 1446
Legal Provisions InvolvedEnvironment (protection ) Act 1986; Water(prevention and control of pollution) act 1974; Air (prevention and control of pollution) act 1981


The case of the Indian Council For Enviro Legal Action v. Union of India addressed severe environmental pollution caused by chemical industry plants in Bichhri village. The petition highlighted the negligence of certain industrial establishments in complying with environmental regulations, leading to the contamination of soil, water and air pollution, the entire environmental ecosystem. The judgement aimed to address the environmental damage caused by the respondents and enforce the principles of environmental protection and accountability.


  1. Procedural Background of the Case

The case involved a writ petition filed by the Indian Council for Enviro Legal Action Against the Union of India and other respondents concerning environmental pollution caused by chemical industrial plants in Bichhri Village.

  1. Factual background of the case

The respondents, including Hindustan Agro Chemicals Limited And Silver Chemicals, were accused of Producing toxic chemicals without proper clearance, resulting in pollution of the surrounding areas.


The primary legal issue raised in the case was the responsibility of the industrial establishments for environmental pollution and the appropriate legal measures to address the damages caused.


The counsels for Petitioner / Appellant submitted that the respondents were accountable for the environmental devastation in Bichhri village and should bear the costs of remedial measures. They emphasized the repeated violations of environmental laws by respondents


The counsels for Respondent submitted that the sole responsibility for the pollution and objected to the actions of regulatory authorities. They opposed the closure of their plants and the imposition of the costs for remedial measures.


  • “Stockholm Declaration”
  • “Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986”,
  • “The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974”,
  • “The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981”.



    Supreme Court held that the respondents were liable for the environmental damage caused and ordered the closure of their plants. The court emphasized the “polluter pays principle” and “strict/absolute liability” in environmental matters.


    The decision sets a crucial precedent in enforcing the principles of environmental protection and upholding the doctrine of polluter pays and strict liability and absolute liability in cases of environmental harm caused by industrial activities. The delivery of such judgements by SC is commendable and exemplifies a significant step towards ensuring environmental accountability through protection. By imposing absolute liability on the respondents and ordering the closure of their plants, the court sends a strong message about the importance of compliance with environmental laws. This decision must strengthen the environmental law and surrounding communities.  The case also highlighted the importance and duty of individuals to enforcement of environmental regulations to safeguard the well-being of the public and the ecosystem.


    Important Cases Referred

    1. M.C. Mehta v. Union Of India (Oleum Gas Leak Case)

    Important Statutes Referred

    1. “Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986”
    2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974”,
    3. “The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981”.