Mehta Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 313
(22 November 1991)
Rangnath (Cj) Misra, Rangnath (Cj) Ray, G.N. (J) Anand, A.S. (J)
1992 AIR 382 1991 SCR Supl. (2) 378 1992 SCC (1) 358 JT 1991 (4) 531 1991 SCALE
Pollution Act: Public Interest Litigation--Protection of environment and
keeping it free from pollution--Indispensable necessity for life on
earth--Directions given to exhibit Cinema slides, films on various aspects of
environment and pollution--Awareness of environment to be taught as compulsory
application is in public interest seeking relief for issuing appropriate
directions of this Court to Cinema, exhibition hails to exhibit slides
containing information and messages on environment free of cost. Further
directions for spread of information relating to environment in nation- al and
regional languages vide broadcast thereof on the All India Radio, exposure
thereof on television in regular and short term programmes with a view to
educating the people of India about their social obligation in the matter of
the upkeep of the environment in proper shape and making them alive to their
obligation not to act as polluting agencies or factors. It is further prayed
that environment should be made a compulsory subject in schools and colleges in
a graded system so that there would be a general growth of awareness.
1972 general awareness of mankind to the environ- ment for the well being of
mankind had not been appropriate- ly appreciated. In 1975 the Constitution
underwent an amend- ment by incorporating an Article 51A with the heading
"Fundamental Duties" Clause (g) thereof requires every citizen to
protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers
and wild life and to have compassion for every living creature. In 1974 Water Pollu-
tion Central Act came on the statues book. In 1981 Air Pollution (Central Act)
and finally in 1986 the Environment Protection Act were enacted.
a regulator of human conduct but no law can indeed effectively work unless
there is an element of ac- ceptance by the people in society.
There has been an explosion of human population, over the last 50 years. Life
has become competitive so the age old norms of good living are no longer
followed. It has therefore, become necessary that people be made aware of vice
of pollution and its level of consequenceS. Keepingg the citizen informed is an
obligation of the Government as well as the responsibility of society to
adequately educate every component of it so that social level is kept up.
of the matter, the Court,
principle on which the praayer is made is accepted and the following directions
That the Cenaral Governmeent, the State Government and Union Tcrritories should
invariably enforce as a condi- tion of license of all cinema halls, touring
Cinemas and video parlours to exhibit. free of cost at feast two slidcs/messages
on environment in each show undertaken by them. The Ministry of Environment
should within two months from. now come out with appropriate slide material on var-
ious aspect of environment and pollution. This material should be circulated to
the collectors who arc the licensing authori ties for compliance without any
further directions and failure to comply with the Court order should be treated
as a ground for. cancellation of the licence by the appro- priate authorities.
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India should
without delay start pronouncing information films of short duration on various
aspects of environment and pollution bringing out the benefits for society on
the environment protection and hazardous involved in environment pollution.
national network, the State Door Darshan Cen- tres, All India Radio, Television
should take proper steps to exhibit such films and interesting programmes on
the subject. There should be regular compliance of these direc- tions be
followed from February
1, 1992. [382 G-H]
principle that through the medium of educational awareness of the environment
and its pollution problems should be taught as a compulsory subject at every
level of education. University Grants Commission should prescribe a course on
environment in a graded manner as a compulsory subject in college education.
The compliance of this re- quirement be done in the next academic year. [383
A-C] 380 Since there is a general acceptance throughout the world as also in
our country that protection of environment keeping free of pollution is an
indispensable necessity of life to survive on earth so everyone must turn his
immediate attention to the proper care to sustain environment in a decent way.
JURISDICTION: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 860 of 1991.
Article 32 of the Constitution of India).
in person G. Ramaswamy, Altar Ahmad, Anil Katiyar, A.M. Khanwilkar and M.P. Sarawala
for the Respondents.
following Order of the Court was delivered:
application is in public interest and has been filed by a practising advocate
of this Court who has consistently been taking interestin matters relating to
environment and pollution. The reliefs claimed in this application under
Article 32 of the Constitution are for issuing appropriate directions to cinema
exhibition halls to exhibit slides containing information and messages on
environment free of cost: directions for spread of infor- mation relating to
environment in national and regional languages and for broadcast thereof on the
All India Radio and exposure thereof on the television in regular and short
term programmes with a view to educating the people of India about their social
obligation in the matter of the upkeep of up the environment in proper shape
and making them alive to their obligation not to act as polluting agencies or fac-
tors." There is also a prayer that environment should be made a compulsory
subject in schools and colleges in a graded system so that there would be a
general growth of awareness. We had issued notice to the Union of India on the
petition and the Central Government has immediately responded.
1972, general awareness of mankind to the impor- tance of environment for the
well-being of mankind had not been appropriately appreciated though over the
years for more than a century there was a growing realisation that mankind had
to live in tune with nature if life was to be peaceful, happy and satisfied. In
the name of scientific development, man started distancing himself from Nature
and even developed an urge to conquer nature. Our ancestors had known that
nature was not subduable and, therefore. had made it an obligation for man to
surrender to nature and live in tune with it. Our Constitution underwent an
amendment in 381 1976 by incorporating an article (51A) with the heading
"Fundamental Duties". Clause (g) thereof requires every citizen to
protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers
and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures. Soon after the internation-
al conference on environment the Water Pollution Control Act of 1974 came on
the statute book; the Air Pollution Control Act came in 1981 and finally came
the Environment Protection Act of 1986.
a regulator of human conduct as the professors of jurisprudence say, but no law
can indeed effectively work unless there is an element of acceptance by the
people in society. No law works out smoothly unless the interaction is
voluntary. In order that human conduct ,nay be m accordance with the
prescription of law it is necessary that there should be appropriate awareness
about what the law requires and there is an element of acceptance that the
requirement of law is grounded upon a philosophy which should be fol- lowed.
This would be possible only when steps are taken in an adequate measure to make
people aware of the indispens- able necessity of their conduct being oriented
in accordance with the requirements of law.
has been an explosion of human population over the last 50 years. Life has
become competitive. Sense of ideal- ism in the living process has
systematically eroded. As a consequence of this the age old norms-of good
living are no longer followed. The anxiety to do good to the needy or for the
society in general has died out, today oblivious of the repercussions of one's
actions on society, everyone is prepared to do whatever is easy and convenient
for his own purpose. In this backdrop if the laws are to be enforced and the
malaise of pollution has to be kept under control and the environment has to be
protected in an unpolluted state it is necessary that people are aware of the
vice of pollution and its evil consequences.
in a democratic polity where dissemination of information is the foundation of
the system. Keeping the citizens informed is an obligation of the Government.
It is equally the responsibility of society to adequately educate every
component of it so that the social level is kept up.
therefore, accept on principle the prayers made by the petitioner. We are happy
to find that the learned Attorney General who appeare for the Union of India
has also appreci- ated the stand of the petitioner and has even cooperated to
work out the procedure by which some of the prayers could be granted.
dispose of this writ petition with the following direc- tions 382 (1)
Respondents 1, 2, & 3 shall issue appropriate direc- tions to the State
Governments and Union Territories to invariably enforce as a condition of
license of all cinema hails, touring cinemas and video parlours to exhibit free
of cost atleast two slides/messages on environment in each show undertaken by
them. The Ministry of Environmental should within two months from now come out
with appropriate slide material which would be brief out efficiently carry the
message home on various aspects of environment and pollu- tion. This material
should be circulated directly to the Collectors who are the licensing
authorities for the cinema exhibition halls under the respective slate laws for
compli- ance without any further direction and helping the cinema halls and
video parlours to comply with the requirements of our order. Failure to comply
with our order should be treat- ed as a ground for cancellation of the licence
by the appro- priate authorities. The material for the slides should be such
that it would at once be impressive, striking and leave as impact on every one
who sees the slide.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India should
without delay start producing information films of short duration as is being
done now on various aspects of environment and pollution bringing out the
benefits for society on the environment being protected and the hazards
involved in the environment being polluted.
catching aspects should be made the central theme of such short films. One such
film should be shown, as far as practicable. in one show every day by the
cinema hails and the Central Government and the State Government are directed
to ensure compliance of this condition from February 1, 1992.
the importance of the matter of environ- ment and the necessity of protecting
it in an unpolluted for as we had suggested to learned Attorney General to have
a dialogue with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as to the manner
the All India Radio and Doordarshan can assist this process of education. We
are happy to indicate that, learned Attorney General has told us that five to
seven minutes can be devoted every day and there could be, once a week, a
longer programme. We do not want to project an impression that we are
authorities on the subject, but we would suggest to the programme controlling
authorities of the Doordarshan and the All India Radio to take proper steps to
make interesting programmes and broadcast the same on the radio and exhibit the
same on the television. The national network as also the State Doordarshan Centres
should immedi- ately take steps to implement this direction so that from
February 1, 1992, regular compliance can be made.
(4) We accept on principle that through the medium of education awareness of
the environment and its problems related to pollution should be taught as a
compulsory sub- ject. Learned Attorney General pointed out to us that the
Central Government is associated with education at the higher levels and the
University Grants Commission can monitor only the under graduate and post
rest of it, according to him, is a State subject. He has agreed that the
University Grants Commission will take appropriate steps immediately to give
effect to what we have said, i.e., requiring the Universities to prescribe a
course on environment. They would consider the feasibility of making this a
compulsory subject at every level in college education. So for as education up
to the college level is concerned, we would require every State Government and
every Education Board connected with education up to the matricu- lation or
stage even intermediate colleges to immediately take steps to enforce
compulsory education on environment in a graded way. this should be so done
that in the next aca- demic year there would be compliance of this requirement.
have not considered it necessary to hear the State Governments and the other
interested groups as by now there is a general acceptance through out the world
as also in our country that protection of environment and keeping it free of
pollution is an indispensable necessity for life to survive on earth. If that
be the situation, every one must 'turn his immediate attention to the proper
care to sustain environment in a decent way.
dispose of the matter with the aforesaid direction but give liberty to Mr.
Mehta to apply to the Court from time to time for further directions, if
Petition dis- posed of.