Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs State of U.P.

By Gargee Yadav[1]

In the Supreme Court of India

NAME OF THE CASERural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra & Others vs State of U.P. & Others  
DATE OF THE CASEMarch 12, 1985
APPELLANTRural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra & Others
RESPONDENTState of U.P. & Others
BENCH/JUDGEP.N. Bhagwati, Amarendra Nath Sen & Rangnath Misra
STATUTES/CONSTITUTION INVOLVEDForest Conservation Act, 1980, Mines Act, 1952, The Constitution of India, The Metalliferous Mines Regulations, 1961
IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ARTICLESArticle 21,32,48A& 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution, Section 6 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980        


In the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, a writ petition was presented before the Supreme Court, addressing the issue of unauthorized and illegal limestone mining activities in the Mussoorie Hill range, Dehradun, India. The petitioner contended that such mining practices had posed a grave threat to both human life and the fragile ecosystem, potentially resulting in irreparable harm. It was argued that the extraction of limestone had disrupted the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Furthermore, the detrimental impact on the perennial water springs was highlighted as evidence of the adverse consequences caused by the mining activities.

During the pendency of the writ petition, the appointment of the Bhargav committee was ordered by the court to conduct a thorough inspection of the limestone mines under consideration. Simultaneously, the government established a separate committee called the Working Group to address the concerns pertaining to the mining activities in that region.

The honorable court observed that while industrial development is crucial for the economic growth of the country, it should not come at the cost of endangering human life. It recognized that true economic prosperity cannot be achieved if mining activities are carried out recklessly and without due consideration for the well-being of the environment and the people. The court stressed the importance of striking a balance between development and conservation, thus, highlighting the need to reconcile these conflicting interests in the broader interest of the nation.


With the advent of advanced machinery, the mining industry has expanded its reach to hilly areas that were once deemed inaccessible. The utilization of sophisticated techniques has enabled geologists and miners to explore and exploit every inch of land for mineral extraction. However, it is essential to recognize that mining operations conducted without proper safety measures can have severe consequences. The extraction of metals involves the use of explosive materials to blast hills, resulting in the unlawful displacement of materials deep within the terrain, a violation of Section 3 of the Mines Act of 1952.

The potential risks associated with such activities include landslides, the release of hazardous substances, and environmental degradation. To ensure sustainable development, a delicate balance must be struck between economic activities and the preservation of the ecosystem. The Supreme Court, in its judgment, has embraced the principle of sustainable development by addressing these concerns.

Moreover, the court’s decision takes into account the welfare of various stakeholders. It not only provided employment opportunities to unemployed workers but also considered the plight of mining lessors. Recognizing the need for a holistic approach, the court allowed the removal of already extracted materials, taking into consideration the interests of all parties involved.

By incorporating the principle of sustainable development and balancing the needs of economic progress with environmental preservation, the court’s judgment sought to promote responsible mining practices and ensure the long-term well-being of both the ecosystem along with the people.


During the 1950s, the commencement of limestone mining operations marked a turning point in the Doon Valley area of Mussoorie. The exploitative practices including the use of explosives, indiscriminate tree felling, and extensive mining activities caused significant harm. This period also witnessed a substantial increase in limestone extraction within the Doon Valley, spanning from 1955 to 1965. The forceful detonations used to extract minerals left the valley devoid of lush vegetation, disrupting the delicate ecological balance.

With the advent of time, the detrimental consequences of these actions became evident. By the 1980s, the natural beauty of the Doon Valley had significantly diminished, making way for a series of calamities. The once-thriving region faced the ravages of recurrent floods, soaring temperatures, perilous landslides, acute water scarcity, and the alarming obliteration of fertile farmlands.

This catastrophic transformation accentuated the urgent need to address the repercussions of uncontrolled industrial activities on fragile ecosystems. The Doon Valley stands as a poignant reminder of the delicate equilibrium that must be maintained between development endeavors and environmental preservation. In 1961, the State Minister of Mines in Uttar Pradesh issued a prohibition on mining industries. However, a year later in 1962, the state government itself granted numerous mining and excavation leases for 20 years, resulting in a resumption of excavation activities. As the leases approached their expiration in 1982, the state government imposed a new prohibition, citing concerns over the ecological devastation caused by mining operations. Despite this decision, mining companies continued to expand their activities, disregarding the government’s stance.

The situation took a turn when the Allahabad High Court authorized mining operations in the Doon Valley, prioritizing economic benefits over ecological considerations. In response, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), a local NGO in Dehradun lodged a complaint against the ecological degradation, submitting a letter of complaint to the Apex Court in 1983. The Supreme Court acknowledged the gravity of the matter and registered the complaint as a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.

During the litigation, the esteemed court exercising its discretionary power constituted the Bhargav committee to meticulously inspect the limestone quarries. Simultaneously, the Indian government constituted a Working Group, led by DN Bhargav who was also a member of the court-appointed committee.

Bhargav committee had divided mines into 3 categories, namely Category A, Category B & Category C. Category A consisted of those mines that exhibit minimal detrimental impact on the environment.[2]Whereas category B relates to those mines that demonstrate a more significant adverse impact on the environment as compared to mines falling under Category A.[3]Category C comprised those mines that have the highest degree of adverse impact on the environment.[4]

On the other hand, the working group classified mines into two categories namely, Category 1 and Category 2. Category 1 consisted of those mines that would have the least adverse impact.[5]On the other hand, Category 2 comprised mines that would have a huge adverse impact and need to be closed with immediate effect.[6]


  • Whether the mining operations violated the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980?
  • Whether environmental conservation should be given priority over the economic development of the country?
  • Whether the excavation of limestone deposits affect the perennial water springs?
  • Whether the lease issued were in accordance with the provisions of the law?


  • The petitioner argued that the mining activities violated the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 as they caused significant damage to the forested areas and ecological balance. Moreover, Section 2 of the act prohibits the use of forest land for non-forest purposes.[7]
  • The petitioner contended that the mining activities were infringing upon their fundamental right to a healthy environment and causing the degradation of spring water sources. The petitioner argued that while economic development is important, it should not come at the expense of irreversible environmental damage.
  • The petitioner highlighted how the extraction process and associated activities had caused a depletion of water resources, thereby endangering the livelihoods and well-being of the inhabitants reliant on these springs.
  • The petitioner contended that the mining operations were carried out without proper authorization, resulting in unauthorized and illegal activities.


  • The Respondent vehemently submitted that the writ petition should be dismissed as it lacked merit and was devoid of any substantial legal basis. Furthermore, the Respondent contended that the authority to conduct investigations should be exclusively vested in administrative authorities as mandated by the provisions enshrined within the Environmental Protection Act.
  • The Respondent argued that the government, not the courts, bears the exclusive responsibility for determining whether the operations in question have the potential to cause environmental harm.
  • The Respondent asserted that mining activities should not be halted as they are crucial for national interests and safeguarding the government’s foreign revenue position.
  • The Respondent contended that the closure of mines will lead to the termination of employment for mine workers and laborers, thereby causing a loss of livelihood. In addition to that, all due care has been taken while carrying out the excavation.


  • Article 21: “Protection of Life and Personal Liberty: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”[8]
  • Article 32: – Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part:
  • The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed.[9]
  • The Supreme Court shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part.[10]
  • Without prejudice to the powers conferred on the Supreme Court by clause (1) and ( 2 ), Parliament may by law empower any other court to exercise within the local limits of its jurisdiction all or any of the powers exercisable by the Supreme Court under clause (2 ).[11]
  • The right guaranteed by this article shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution.[12]
  • Article 48A: This Article comes under the Directive principle of the State policy. This article implies that State shall endeavor to protect the environment. It also emphasizes on safeguarding the forests and wildlife of the country. Article 48A imposes a duty on  State to protect the environment from pollution by adopting various measures.[13]
  • Article 51A (g): Article 51 A(g) states that it shall be the duty of each and every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment that includes lakes, rivers, forests, and wildlife. This Article also focuses on showing compassion for living creatures. This article is similar to Article 48A, but the only difference is that it concentrates on fundamental duty of citizens whereas Article 48A instructs the state to perform its duties and protect the environment.[14]


The Court categorically stated that limestone quarries classified under Category C of the Bhargav Committee Report, which have already been closed as per the Committee’s directions should not be permitted to resume operations. Any stay orders obtained by lessees for mining in these quarries will be nullified, and existing leases for these quarries will be terminated without liability against the State of Uttar Pradesh. The limestone quarries in Sahasradhara Block classified under Category B by the Bhargav Committee, should also be immediately closed. Additionally, the Court concurred with the Working Group’s report that limestone quarries classified under Category 2 by the Working Group apart from those in Categories B and C as per the Bhargav Committee, should be closed and prohibited from operating except for the limestone quarries covered by mining leases Nos. 31,  36 and 37 for which the court would give the same direction as will be given regarding the limestone quarries classified as category B in the Bhargav  Committee Report.[15] Based on the reports of the Bhargava committee and the Working Group, the Court concluded that mining operations can proceed in Categories A and B subject to observance of the relevant rules and regulations, but in case of Category C mining operations must be discontinued with immediate effect.

The limestone quarries mentioned in Category A or Category 1 of the Bhargav Committee Report and the Working Group Report respectively are divided into two categories based on their location within or outside the city limits of Mussoorie. The limestone quarries falling within the previously stated category and located outside the city limits of Mussoorie may continue to operate, provided they comply with the Mines Act 1952, the Metalliferous Mines Regulations 1961, and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

The court directed to cease the mining operations conducted through blasting. The court also acknowledged that mining in the Dehradun Valley forest area violates the forest conservation Act,1980. While emphasizing environmental conservation, the Court further took into account the economic hardships faced by mining operators and laborers. To address this concern, the honorable Court directed that priority be given to the affected mining operators of the valley in the new limestone mines. The honorable court directed, “…that whenever any other area in the State of Uttar Pradesh is thrown open for grant of lime stone or dolomite quarrying, the lessees who are displaced as a result of this order shall be afforded priority in grant of lease of such area and intimation that such area is available for grant of lease shall be given to the lessees who are displaced so that they can apply for grant of lease of such area and on the basis of such application, priority may be given to them subject, of course, to their otherwise being found fit and eligible.”[16]

Additionally, the Central government was directed to provide employment opportunities to workers in reclamation and afforestation projects following the discontinuation of mining operations in category C.


The Supreme Court has consistently demonstrated its commitment to upholding fundamental rights and has issued a landmark judgment in response to a petition, emphasizing the imperative of striking a delicate balance between economic advancement and environmental degradation. The Court acknowledged that the Constitution of India guarantees the right to a wholesome environment as a fundamental right under Article 21. It recognized the adverse impact of industrialization on the environment and emphasized the need for sustainable development, which entails integrating developmental and environmental imperatives. It recognized the crucial role of the judiciary in determining the scope of administrative powers and functions and in establishing a harmonious equilibrium between environmental protection and development.

The Court highlighted the importance of a balanced approach that considers both economic prosperity and a pollution-free environment. Ultimately, the Court through its verdict issued a clarion call to uphold the process of sustainable development that safeguards the well-being of the present and future generations, recognizing the interdependence of human life and nature.

[1] 2nd semester student at Amity Law School, Lucknow.

[2] (1985) 2 SCC 431.




[6] Ibid.

[7] Forest Conservation Act, 1980, §2.

[8] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 21.

[9] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(1).

[10] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(2).

[11] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(3).

[12]The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(4).

[13] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 48A.

[14] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 51A(g).

[15] (1985) 2 SCC 431.

[16] (1985) 2 SCC 431.

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