By:- Priyanka Bararia
In The Supreme Court of India
|NAME OF THE CASE||K.M Chinnappa, T.N Godavarnam vs. Union of India & ors|
|EQUIVALENT CITATION||Writ petition (civil) 202 of 1995|
|DATE OF THE CASE||30th October, 2002|
|APPELLANT||K.M. CHINNAPPA, T.N. Godavarman Thirumalpad|
|RESPONDENT||Union of India and Ors|
|BENCH/JUDGE||CJI Y.K. Sabharwal, Arijit Pasayat, B.N. Kirpal|
|STATUES INVOLVED||Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Environment (Protection) Act 1986, Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, Constitution of India, 1950, Energy Conservation Act, 2001|
|IMPORTANT SECTIONS||Environment (Protection) Act 1986- sec 3, sec 35(1); Constitution of India, 1950- Article 47, Article 48(A), Article 51-A(g), Article 21, Art 6; Energy Conservation Act,2001- sec 2, sec 3.|
One has got to be very cautious while addressing hilly region, not only the Western Ghats. Habitat loss due to human activities and global climate change is synergistically posing serious threats to the world biodiversity resulting in irreversible extinction of several species.
Especially for the agricultural poor who have limited economic options, use of national park resources are the main source for his or her survival, giving them direct benefits from food, medicine and forest products. National parks can contribute to maintaining the ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, along with the economic benefits to the local population. National parks and protected areas can play a significant role in climate change mitigation as well.
Therefore, the present case aims to look after the roles, challenges, and arguments present to protect the Kudremukh National Park. In this case we will look after how is wildlife protected i.e., flora and fauna.
This case included mining activity in Kudremukh National Park, as well as the resulting environmental issues. The area’s woodlands were one of the world’s 18 globally recognized “Hotspots” for biodiversity conservation. The court examined the relevance of environmental law as an instrument of environmental protection, analyzed different categories of potential liabilities for non-compliance with environmental regulation, and emphasized the gene of environmental regulation so as to succeed in its decision.
It was stressed that the Central Government has not given permission for any forest area to be exploited for non-forest purposes. De-reservation of forests, sanctuaries, and national parks was therefore clearly prohibited.
In this case, the Forest Advisory Committee, which was constituted under the Conservation Act, advised that mining be allowed for four years, by which time the weathered secondary ore accessible in the already broken up area would be gone. Finally, the court determined that there was no basis to differ with the Committee’s finding. It was deemed reasonable to accept the Forest Advisory Committee’s deadline. As a result, it absolutely was decided that mining would be permitted for the required period. However, this was contingent on the Committee on Environmental Aspects’ recommendations being followed.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE:
The Western Ghats’ Kudremukh National Park is one of the world’s 38 “hottest hotspots” of biological richness, and a world heritage site. Its 630 square kilometers of highland meadows and tropical rainforests make it the Western Ghats’ largest protected area. The Park is home to a variety of threatened and endangered species such as lion-tailed macaques, tigers, and Malabar tigers etc.
Sadly, 48 square kilometers of magnificent forest in the heart of Kudremukh were leased to the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited in 1969, long before the park was notified (KIOCL). This resulted in the loss of Kudremukh’s forests and animals, as well as widespread siltation of rivers and reservoirs. Even after the lease expired in 1999, the company continued to operate.
FATCS OF THE CASE:
Kudremukh, a biodiversity hotspot, received its first notification of being designated as a National Park in 1987. This subjected the area to the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which prohibits any non-forestry operations, including mining, within a protected area. Because of the lease granted two decades before, the company was able to continue operations until 1999.
In 1969, KIOCL was granted authorization and a 30-year lease to take over 3703 hectares of forest land in the western ghats of southern Karnataka in order to mine iron ore for export. The company’s lease ended on July 25, 1999, but activities continued. The company continued its mining operations while operating under a “temporary working authorization” provided by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Even though the lease was about to expire, iron ore was still being collected from Kudremukh’s shola-grassland heart. K M Chinnappa, a retired Forest Officer and Trustee of the NGO Wildlife, filed an Interlocutory Application (IA) with the Supreme Court in 2001 when there appeared to be no indication that the company would stop mining and when appeals to the government to not renew the lease were unsuccessful.
- Whether the appeal should be “dollar friendly” or “Eco- friendly”.
- Whether to direct KIOCL to stop contaminating the Bhadra River as a result of open-pit mining.
- Whether KIOCL should be prosecuted for illegal forest encroachment and forest devastation in the Kudremukh National Park.
- Whether to stop KIOCL from constructing a new slurry pipe line through the forest of National Park.
ARGUMENT BY PETITIONER:
The Petitioner presented evidence of long-term environmental harm caused by mining operations not only in the Kudremukh region, but also in the Bhadra river and reservoirs, as well as agricultural area downstream.
The impact of debris from mines transported down the river put millions of farmers who rely on the river in jeopardy. In the period between 1999 and 2002, after the lease had expired, remote sensing images revealed that KIOCL had opened up a further 56 hectares of land in total violation of existing legislation. The Comptroller and Auditor General determined that the improper land usage caused Rs 19.33 crores in environmental harm.
ARGUMENT BY RESPONDENT:
KIOCL told the MC that it could continue to collect primary ore for another twenty years, but that it required to remove weathered ore on a 54-hectare hillside area. They stated that the hill slopes were unstable, and that the only way to stabilize the land was to remove the minerals.
The National Institute of Rock Mechanics issued reports that corroborated this, and the MC was soon convinced that these statements were true. Only one MC member, of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, had expressed his displeasure, claiming that the action was plainly outside the MC’s jurisdiction and that he agreed with none of their recommendations.
The court examined relevant provision of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 under Section 3 where Power of Central Government to require measures to protect and improve environment. Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government shall have the power to require all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution.
As well as section 35(1) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, stating 1. This Act is also called the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. 2. It extends to the whole of India. 3. It shall come into force on such date 1 as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint and different dates may be appointed for different provisions of this Act and for different areas. Where, an application being made the lease was to be renewed for twenty years and therefore, the recommendations made at a point of time for such period was made under this section.
This case also reminds its citizens of the duty on the State to improve public health as its primary duty, under Article 47 of Indian Constitution, 1986. Where the State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.
It also reminds the citizens of the fundamental duties enshrined under Article 51-A(g) which instructs the citizens to strive “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. State has also been endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country under Article 48A
Whereas, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, 1986 protects right to life as a fundamental right. The enjoyment of life and its attainment, including their right to live with dignity, includes environmental conservation and preservation, ecological balance free of pollution of air and water, and sanitation, all of which are necessary for life to be enjoyed. Therefore, the Central Government, State Governments, and organisations such as Municipalities have a constitutional obligation to not only secure and defend a healthy environment, but also to take appropriate measures to promote, protect, and develop the man-made and natural environments.
However, Article 6 of this Act is also important as it tells us about the General measures for conservation and sustainable use where Each contracting party shall (a) develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or adopt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes which shall reflect, the measures set out in this Convention relevant to the contracting party concerned; and (b) integrate, as far as possible and as appropriate, the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross- sectoral plans, programmes and policies.
Section 2(ii) of the Conservation Act rules out non-forest activities. The Section opens with a non-obstante clause that states that, notwithstanding anything in any other legislation now in force in a State, no State Government or other authority shall make any order of the sort mentioned in the section unless the Central Government has given its prior consent. where Section 3 of the Conservation Act deals with constitution of Advisory Committee the Bureau shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a standard seal, magisterially to amass, possess, and dispose of property, both movable and immovable, and to contract, and shall sue or be sued under the said name, subject to the wants of this Act.
‘By destroying nature, environment, man is committing matricide, having in a way killed Mother Earth. Technological excellence, growth of industries, economical gains has led to depletion of natural resources irreversibly. Indifference to the grave consequences, lack of concern and foresight have contributed in large measures to the alarming position. In the case at hand, the alleged victim is the flora and fauna in and around Kudremukh National Park, a part of the Western Ghats. The forests in the area are among 18 internationally recognized “hotspots” for biodiversity conservation in the world.’
The court held that Environmental law, is a tool for protecting and improving the environment, as well as controlling or preventing any act or omission that pollutes or is likely to pollute the environment. Due to the huge challenges posed by the industrial revolutions, legislators all over the world are engaged in this effort. In a handful of cases, prison sentences have been imposed. Aside from the immediate costs of complying with tougher regulatory restrictions, the potential liabilities associated with non-compliance are also rising.
In this case, the Forest Advisory Committee considered the renewal proposal for the Company’s mining lease on July 11, 2001, in accordance with the Conservation Act. Because the matter was still before the court, the Ministry of Environment and Forests postponed making an official decision on the recommendation.
Taking into account the facts, the time period set by the Forest Advisory Committee established under Section 3 of the Conservation Act should be accepted. That means mining should be permitted until the end of 2005, when the weathered secondary ore in the already broken region should have been exhausted. This, however, is contingent on the Committee on Environmental Aspects’ recommendations being followed.
Several legal actions have been brought against the corporation for alleged violations of numerous laws. The respective forums/Courts will assess these proceedings in their own right, without regard to any observations expressed in this judgement. The interlocutory application was disposed of by the court.
The company was fined Rs. 130 crores for its violations of forest laws by the Comptroller and Auditor General. In spite of the State Public Accounts Committee also endorsing this penalty, the Karnataka government has not bothered to collect the fine and evict KIOCL.
This decision was well-written and spelled out the court’s ideology as well as the laws of the land. It planned to shut down a Rs 2000 crore mining operation inside Kudremukh National Park by 2005, after 22 years of operation. This decision would set important precedents for other national parks as well.
The impact on the environment must be assessed in order to address concerns about human health, contribute to improved quality of life through a better environment, ensure the preservation of species diversity, and sustain the eco-reproductive system’s capability as a basic resource of life.