By:- Saurabh Shrivastava
|NAME OF THE CASE||Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra & Ors. Vs State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.|
|CITATION||1985 AIR 652|
|DATE OF THE CASE||12 March 1985|
|PETITIONER||Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra Dehradun & Ors.|
|RESPONDENT||State of U.P & Ors|
|BENCH/JUDGE||P.N. Bhagwati, Amarendra Nath Sen Rangnath Misra|
|STATUTES/ CONSTITUTION||Forest Conservation Act, the constitution of India|
|IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ ARTICLE||Article 32 of the Indian Constitution|
This case deals with limestone mining carried out in Dehradun that has endangered life of inhabitants and could have caused irreversible damage to the ecosystem. A writ petition was filed in Supreme Court by Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra regarding the unauthorised and illegal mining of lime-stone in the Mussoorie Hill range, India. It was argued that the Extraction of limestones from mines had led to an imbalance in the ecosystem that could soon become a health menace if continued and showed how it has affected the perennial water springs.
The Bhargav committee was appointed during the pendency of the writ petition to inspect the mentioned limestone mines. The conjunction with this, the government has also appointed a working committee on the mining of limestone quarries. On 12th March 1985, the Court passed an order giving various directions and observing that the reasons for the order would be set out in the judgment to follow later.
The court had emphasized that industrial development was necessary for the economic growth of the country. However, if economic growth is achieved by the haphazard and reckless working of the mines resulting in loss of life, loss of property, loss of basic amenities like the supply of water and creation of ecological imbalance, then economic prosperity could never be realised. The development must strike a balance between development and conservation and serves to emphasise the need for reconciling the two in the larger interest of the country
With the advent of advanced machinery, the extraction of metals and coal has been expanded to hilly areas where once it was next to impossible. Now every parameter of land has come into the purview of geologists and miners. It is pertinent to say that if not carried out with safety, mining of minerals could lead to landslides, escape of hazardous material. Extraction of metals is carried by blasting out the hill with dynamite. This lead to the slumping of material deep inside the hill which is an illegal activity according to the mines acts 1952. There is a need to restore the balance between economic activities and the ecosystem to make life sustainable otherwise catastrophic events might entail. Everything has positive effects along with negative effects as in the case of industrialization. Supreme Court has applied this Principle of sustainable development in its judgement by providing employment to the unemployed workman and also keeping in view the plight of mining lessor, allowed to remove already extracted material
Background of the case:
Due to ecological destruction that could result from mining activities in Dehradun hilly areas, the State minister of mining prohibited mining practices in 1961 in all the hilly areas under his ambit.
But the contractor lobbied with the chief minister of state availed mining lease for 20 years by corruption and favours.
On account of irreversible and dangerous damage state rejected the renewal of 18 leases. As a the lessors filed a petition in Allahabad high court and were granted injunction regarding permission to continue with their mining activities on the account of heavy economic losses if they were not allowed to continue mining.
Facts of the case
The decision of Allahabad high court prompted rural litigation and entitlement Kendra to send a letter to the apex court challenging the decision and how this could lead to environmental degradation. Supreme Court treated it as a writ petition under Article 32. The review was done by Supreme Court and the required reforms for mining operations and providing required funds as an administrative assistant for the reforestation of that particular area was done.
During the pendency of the case, the court-appointed a committee known as the Bhargav committee to inspect the limestone quarries to analyse the environmental impact of mining activities
While the government of India also appointed a working committee headed by the same DN Bhargav who is also a member of court appointed committee.
Bhargav committee had divided mines into 3 categories
1. Category A concerns with mines that have the least adverse effect on the environment
2. Category B concerns with mines that have more profound adverse effects on the environment than category A
3. Category C concerns mines that have the highest adverse effect on the environment.
While working committee classified mines into two categories
Category 1 concerns with mines that will have the least adverse impact
Category 2 concerns with mines that will have a huge adverse impact and need to be closed immediately
- Whether mining operations in Dehradun Valley violates the forest conservation act of 1980?
- Whether mining operation resulted in landslides, loss of vegetation and could further lead to irreversible ecological losses?
- Whether quarries led to degradation of perennial water springs?
- Whether the lease issued were following the law?
Arguments by Petitioner
- The petitioner claimed that mining activities had caused damage to the perennial water spring.
- The petitioner further claimed that deposit of limestone act as an aquifer if disturbed, this could lead to ecological imbalance and would endanger the life of inhabitants
- The petitioner contended that the mining activities were carried out without safety and precaution. And irresponsible behaviour on the end of respondents has led to landslides, loss of vegetation and loss of lives of many.
- The lease issue by the states was not in accordance with law and was coloured with corruption and favours
Arguments by respondent
- The Respondent contended that writ petition should be dismissed as it was frivolous, and all authority of investigation shall be given to administrative authorities under the environmental protection act
- The Respondent further contended that the authority to decide whether the operations could destroy the environment is solely the responsibility of the government and not of the courts
- The Respondent argued that rejection of further lease could lead to catastrophic economical destruction to the lessor as the major chunk of material were still not extracted to make the operations feasible.
- The Respondent has taken all safety measures and precautions to avert any adversity and further applied for a lease in the view of a longer period of the lease. Cancellation of the lease at this moment would lead to loss of employment to many and heavy losses
Related Statutes/ Provision
Article 32 of the Indian constitution. Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by the constitution.
Section 6 Forest conservation Act 1980The Mines Act, 1952 approval by the centre government
The Court is clearly of the view that so far as the limestone quarries classified in category (c) in the Bhargav Committee Report are concerned, which have already been closed down under the directions of the Bhargav Committee, should not be allowed to be operated. If the lessees of these limestone quarries have obtained any stay order from any court permitting them to continue the mining operations, such stay order will stand dissolved and if there are any subsisting leases in respect of any of these quarries, they shall stand terminated without any liability against the State of Uttar Pradesh. The limestone quarries in Sahasradhara Block even though they are placed in category (b) by the Bhargav Committee should also not be allowed to be operated and should be closed down forthwith. The Court would also direct, agreeing with the Report made by the Working Group that the limestone quarries placed in the category (2) by the Working Group other than those which are placed in categories (B) and (C) by the Bhargav Committee should also not be allowed to be operated and should be closed down.
In this case, after a detailed report of Bhargava committee appointed by court and working group headed by the same person Bhargava for the inspection of mining areas, Court concluded that category A and B are suitable for the continuation of mining operations but category “C” mines operation shall be discontinued. Relying on these reports, the Apex court concluded that limestone mining in a reserve forest in Dehradun Valley is an infringement of the provisions in the forest conservation act that restrict mining in the forest area. Along with environment conservation, Supreme Court is also concerned with the economic hardships that will be caused to mining operators and the labourer if they ordered the closure of the mining operation in Dehradun Valley. To tackle this problem court ordered that rather than mining in the category C area, mining operators will be given priority in new mines limestone auction.
Furthermore, the government of India was ordered to give employment to workmen in reclamation and afforestation projects after the closure of operations in category C.
Further During the litigation, in 1986, Parliament enacted the Environment Protection Act.
After this, the Valley was designated as an ecologically fragile area under the Environment Protection Act. In addition, the centre appointed a Doon Valley Board, under the chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests, which was charged with conserving and restoring degraded areas of the Valley. The Supreme Court concluded that mining in reserved forests in the Dehradun valley violated the Forest Conservation Act. However, the Forest Conservation Act only prohibits non-forest activities on forest lands that do not have the approval of the Central Government. The Court issued the following directions:
- Orders that mine lessees whose operations were terminated by the court would be given priority for leases in new areas open to limestone mining.
- Orders that the Eco-Task Force of the central department of Environment reclaim and reforest the area damaged by mining and that workers displaced by mine closure be given priority for jobs with the Eco-Task Force operations in the region.
It’s time and again proved that Supreme Court never led fundamental rights to be infringed, the petition filed in Supreme Court had led to a landmark judgement with a view that our focus should be mainly to balance economic prospects and environmental degradation to create sustainable development for our humankind. As nature works mysteriously, today’s negligence could be Tomorrow catastrophe. To avoid such misfortune, we humans must pave our way with the environment on our side so that future generations would not have to suffer for our deeds.