Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 1027 (28 August 1996)
Singh, Faizan Uddin, K. Venkataswami Kuldip Singh, J..
28TH DAY OF AUGUST, 1996 Present:
Mr. Justice Kuldip Singh Hon'ble Mr. Justice Faizan Uddin Hon'Ble Mr, Justice
K. Venkataswami R. Mohan, V.A. Bobde, Kapil Sibal, M.R. Sharma, V.C. Mahajan,
and S.S. Ray, Sr. Advs., K.R.R. Pillai, M.C. Mehta, Ms. Seema Midha, V.G. Pragasam,
Vijay Panjwani, S. Sukumaran, Sudhir Walia, A.T.M. Sampath, M.S. Dahiya,(Sudhir
Walia, Roy Abraham, Advs. for Sm. Baby Krishna, P. Sukumar, Praveen Kumar, Romesh
C. Pathak M.A. Krishnamurthy, V. Krishnamurthy, Mrs. Anil Katiyar, Ms. Indra Sawhney,
Deepak Diwan, S.M, Jadhev, A.V. Rangam, Zafarullah Khan, Shahid Rizvi, Shakil
Ahmed Syed, Jaideep Gupta and Sanjay Hegde, Advs. with them for the appearing
following Judgment of the Court was delivered:
petition - public interest - under Article 32 of the Constitution of India has
been filed by Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum and is directed against the
pollution which is being caused by enormous discharge of untreated effluent by
the tanneries and other industries in the State of Tamil Nadu . It is stated that the tanneries
are discharging untreated effluent into agricultural fields to, road-Sides,
Water ways and open lands. The untreated effluent is finally discharged in
river Palar which is the main source of water supply to the residents of the
area. According to the petitioner the entire surface and sub-soil water of
river Palar has been polluted resulting in non availability Potable water to
the residents of the area. It is stated that the tanneries in the State of Tamil Nadu have caused environmental
degradation in the area. According to the preliminary survey made by the Tamil Nadu
Agricultural University Research Center Vellore nearly 35,000 hectares of
agricultural land in the Tanneries Belt, has become either partially or totally
unfit for cultivation. It has been further stated in the petition that the
tanneries use about 170 types of chemicals in the chrome tanning processes. The
said chemicals include sodium chloride, lime, sodium sulphate, chlorium sulphate,
fat liquor Amonia and sulphuric acid besides dyes which are used in large
quantities. Nearly 35 litres of water is used for processing one kilogram of
finished leather, resulting in dangerously enormous quantities of toxic
effluents being let out in the open by the tanning industry. These effluents
have spoiled the physico-chemical properties of the soil, and have contaminated
ground water by percolation. According to the petitioner an independent survey
conducted by Peace Members, a non governmental organisation, covering 13
villages of Dindigal and Peddiar Chatram Anchayat Unions, reveals that 350
wells out of total of 467 used for drinking and irrigation purposes have been
polluted. Women and children have to walk miles to get drinking water. Legal
Aid and Advice Board of Tamil Nadu requested two lawyers namely, M.R, Ramanan
and P.S. Subramanium to visit the area and submit a report indicating the
extent of pollution caused by the tanneries. Relevant part of the report is as under
per the Technical Report dated 28.5.1983 of the Hydrological Investigations
carried out in Solur village near Ambur it was noticed that 176 chemicals
including acids were contained in the Tannery effluents. If 40 litres of water
with chemicals are required for one Kilo of Leather, with the production of 200
tons of leather per day at present and likely to be increased multifold in the
next four to five years with the springing up of more tanneries like mushroom
in and around Ambur Town, the magnitude of the effluent water used with
chemicals and acids let out daily can be shockingly imagined. ..... The effluents
are let out from the tanneries in the nearby lands, then to Goodar and Palar
rivers. The lands, the rivulet and the river receive the effluents containing
toxic chemicals and acids. The sub soil water is polluted ultimately affecting
not only arable lands, wells used for agriculture but also drinking water
wells. The entire Ambur Town and the villages situated nearby do not have good drinking
water. Some of the influential and rich people are able to get drinking water
from a far off place connected by a few pipes. During rainy days and floods,
the chemicals deposited into the rivers and lands spread out quickly to other
lands. The effluents thus let out, affect cultivation, either crops do not come
up at all or if produced the yield is reduced abnormally too low. ........ The
Tanners have come to stay. The industry is a Foreign Exchange Earner. But one
moot point is whether all the cost of the lives of lakhs of people with
increasing human population the activities of the tanneries should be
encouraged on monetary considerations. We find that the tanners have absolutely
no regard for the healthy environment in and around their tanneries. The
effluents discharged have been stored like a pond openly in the most of the
places adjacent to cultivable lands with easy access for the animals and the
people. The Ambur Municipality, which can exercise its powers as per the provisions of the
Madras District Municipalities Act (1920) more particularly under Sections 226
to 231, 249 to 253 and 338 to 342 seems to be a silent spectator probably it
does not want to antagomise the highly influential and stupendously rich
tanners. The powers given under Section 63 of the Water Prevention and Control
of Pollution Act 1974 (6 of 1974) have not been exercised in the case of tanneries
in Ambur and the surrounding areas." Alongwith the affidavit dated July 21, 1992 filed by Deputy Secretary to
Government, Environment and Forests Department of Tamil Nadu, a list of
villages affected by the tanneries has been attached. The list mentions 59
villages in the three Divisions of Thirupathur, Vellore and Ranipath.
is acute shortage of drinking water in these 59 villages and as such
alternative arrangements were being made by the Government for the supply of
affidavit dated January
9, 1992 filed by
Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (the board), it has been
stated as under :
is submitted that there are 584 tanneries in North Arcot Ambedkar District vide
annexure 'A' and 'D'.
which 443 Tanneries have applied for consent of the Board.
Government were concerned with the treatment and disposal of effluent from
tanneries. The Government gave time upto 31.7.1985 to tanneries to put up
Effluent Treatment Plant (E.T.P.). So far 33 tanneries in North Arcot Ambedkar
District have put up Effluent Treatment Plant. The Board has stipulated
standards for the effluent to be disposed by the tanneries." The
affidavits filed on behalf of State of Tamil Nadu and the Board clearly
indicate that the tanneries and other polluting industries in the State of
Tamil Nadu are being persuaded for the last about 10 years to control the
pollution generated by them. They were given option either to construct common
effluent treatment plants for a cluster of industries or to set up individual
pollution control devices. The Central Government agreed to give substantial
subsidy for the construction of common effluent treatment plants (CETPs). It is
a pity that till date most of the tanneries operating in the State of Tamil Nadu have not taken any step to Control
the Pollution caused by the discharge of effluent. This Court on MAY 1, 1995 passed a detailed order. In the said order this
Court noticed various earlier orders passed by this Court and finally directed
as under :
R. Mohan, learned senior counsel for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has
placed before us a consolidated statement dividing the 553 industries into
three parts. The first part in Statement No.1 and the second part in Statement
No.2 relate to those tanneries who have set up the Effluent Treatment Plants
either individually or collectively to the satisfaction of the Tamil Nadu
Pollution Control Board. According to the report placed on the record by the
Board, these industries in Statements 1 and 2 have not achieved the standard or
have not started functioning to the satisfaction of the Board. So far as the
industries in Statements 1 and 2 are concerned, we give them three months
notice from today to complete the setting up of Effluent Treatment Plant
(either individually or collectively) failing which they shall be liable to
pollution fine on the basis of their past working and also liable to be closed.
We direct the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to issue individual notices to
all these industries within two weeks from today. The Board is also directed to
issue a general notice on three consecutive days in a local newspaper which has
circulation in the District concerned.
as the 57 tanneries listed in Statement III (including 12 industries who have
filed writ petition, Nos. of which have been given above) are concerned, these
units have not installed and commissioned the Effluent Treatment Plants despite
various orders issued by this Court from time to time. Mr. R. Mohan, learned
senior counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board states that the
Board has issued separate notices to these units directing them to set up the
Effluent Treatment Plants. Keeping in view the fact that this Court has been
monitoring the matter for the last about four years and various orders have
been issued by this Court from time to time, there is no justification to grant
any further time to these industries. We, therefore, direct the- 57 industries
listed hereunder to be closed with immediate effect.
We direct the District Collector and the Senior Superintendent of Police of the
District to have our orders complied with immediately. Both these Officers
shall file a report in This Court within one week of the receipt of the order.
We give opportunity to these 57 industries to approach this ' court as and when
any steps towards the setting up of Effluent treatment Plants their plants and
their commissioning have been taken by these industries. If any of the
industries wish to be relocated to some other area they may come out with a
proposal in that respect :
On July 28,1995 this Court suspended the closure
order in respect or seven industries mentioned therein for a period of eight
weeks. It was further observed as under:
G . Ramaswamy, learned senior advocate appearing for some of the tanneries in Madras states that the setting up of the
effluent treatment plants is progressing satisfactorily. According to him
several lacs have already been spent and in a short time it would start operating.
Mr. Mohan, learned counsel for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board will
inspect that project and file a report by 3rd August, 1995".
Court on September 8,
1995 passed the
following order :
Tamil Nadu pollution Control Board relates to about 299 industries stated by
M.G. Ramaswamy, Mr. Kapil Sibal and Mr. Sanghi, learned senior advocates
appearing f for these industries, that the setting up of projects is in
progress. According to the learned counsel Tamil Nadu Leather Development
Corporation (TALCO) is in charge of the project. The learned counsel state that
the project shall be completed in every respect within 3 months from today.
details of these industries and the projects undertaken by TALCO as per list No.
I is as under...... We are of the view that it would be in the interest of
justice to give a little more time to these industries to complete the project.
Although the industries have asked time for three months, we give them time
till 31st December,
1995. We make it clear
that in case the projects are not completed by that time, the industries shall
be liable to be to be closed forthwith. Apart from that, these industries shall
also be liable to pollution fine for the past. period during which they had
been operating. We also take this opportunity to direct TALCO to take full
interest in these projects and have the projects completed within the time
granted by us.
Sibal, learned counsel appearing for the tanneries, stated that Council, for
Indian Finished Leather Manufacturers Export Association is a body which is
collecting 5% on all exports. This body also helps the tanneries in various respect.
We issue notice to the Association to be present in this Court and assist this
Court in all the matters pertaining to the leather tanneries in Madras. Mr. Sampath takes notice .
as List No. II is concerned, it relates to about 163 tanneries (except M/s. Vibgyor
Tanners & Co., Kailasagiri Roads, Mittalam-635 811 Ambur (via), The
Pollution Control Board has inspected all these tanneries and placed its report
before us. According to the report mosts of these tanneries have not even
started primary work at spot.
of them have not even located the land. The tanneries Should have themselves
set, up the pollution control devices right at time when they started working.
They have not done so. They are not even listening to various orders passed by
this Court from time to time during the last more than 2 years.
on the record that these tanneries are polluting the area.
the water around the area where they are operating is not worth drinking. We
give no further time to these tanneries. We direct all the following tanneries
which are numbering about 162 to be closed with immediate effect.
be mentioned that this Court suspended the closure orders in respect of various
industries from time to time enable the said industries to install the
pollution control devices.
Court by the order dated October 20, 1995 directed the National Environmental
Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur (NEERI) to send a team of experts to
examine, in particular, the feasibility of setting up of CETPs for cluster of
tanneries situated at, different places in, the State of Tamil Nadu where the
work of setting up of the CETPs has not started and also to inspect the
existing CETPs including those where construction work was in progress .
submitted its first report on December 9, 1995
and the second report on February
12, 1996. This Court
examined the two reports and passed the following order on April 9, 1996:
to this Court's order dated December 15, 1955,
NEERI has submitted Final Examination Report dated February 12, 1996, regarding CETPs constructed/under construction by the
Tanneries in various districts of the State of Tamil Nadu. A four member team constituted by the Director, NEERJ
inspected the CETPs from January 27 to February 12, 1996. According to the report, at
present, 30 CETPs sites have been identified for tannery clusters in the five
districts of Tamil Nadu viz., North Arcot Ambedkar, Erode Periyar, Dindigul
Anna, Trichi and Chengai M.G.R. All the 30 CETPs are inspected by the Team.
According to the report, only 7 CETPs are under operation, while 10 are under
construction and 13 are proposed.
following 7 ETPs are under operation:
M/s. TALCO Ranipet Tannery Effluent Treatment Co. Ltd. Ranipet, Dist. North Arcot Ambedkar.
M/s. TALCO Ambur Tannery Effluent Treatment Co. Ltd., Thuthipet Sector, Ambur
Dist. North Arcot Ambedkar.
M/s. TALCO Vaniyambadi Tanners Enviro Control Systems Ltd., Vaniyambattu, Vaniyambadi,
Dt. North Arcot.
M/s. Pallavaram Tanners Industrial Effluent Treatment Co., Chrompet Area, Dist.
M/s. Ranipet SIDCO Finished Leather Effluent Treatment Co. Pvt. Ltd., Ranipet, Dist.
North Arcot Ambedkar.
M/s. TALCO Vaniyambadi Tanners Enviro Control Systems Ltd. Udayendiram, Vaniyambadi,
Dist. North Arcot Ambedkar.
M/s. TALCO Pernambut Tannery Effluent Treatment Co. Ltd., Bakkalapalli, Pernambut,
Dist. North Arcot Ambedkar.
mentioned at Sl. Nos. 5, 6 & 7 were commissioned in January, 1996 and were
on the date of report passing through stabilization period. The report
indicates that so far as the above CETPs are concerned, although there is
improvement in the performance they are still not operating at their optimal
level and are not meeting the standards as laid down by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for inland
surface water discharge. The NEERI has given various recommendations to be
followed by the above mentioned units. We direct the units to comply with the
recommendations of NEERI within two months from today.
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board shall monitor the directions and have the
recommendations of the NEERI complied with. So far as the three units which are
under stabilization, the NEERI Team may inspect the same and place a final
report before this Court within the period of two months.
from the tanneries which are connected with the above mentioned 7 units, there are
large number of other tanneries operating in the 5 districts mentioned above
which have not set up any satisfactory pollution control devices. Mr. Mohan
learned counsel for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board states that notices
were issued to all those tanneries from time to time directing them to set up
the necessary pollution control devices. It is mandatory for the tanneries to
set up the pollution control devices. Despite notices it has not been done.
This Court has been monitoring these matters for the last about 4 years. There
is no awakening or realisation to control the pollution which is being
generated by these tanneries.
NEERI has indicated the physico-chemical characteristics of ground water from
dug wells near tannery clusters. According to the report, water samples show
that well-waters around the tanneries are unfit for drinking. The report also
shows that the that the quality of water in Paler river down stream from the
place where effluent is discharged, is highly polluted. We, therefore, direct
that all the tanneries in the districts of North Arcot Ambedkar, Erode Periyar,
Dindigul Anna, Trichi and Chengai M.G.R which are not connected with the seven CETPs
mentioned above, shall be closed with immediate effect. None of these tanneries
shall be permitted to operate till the time the CETPs are constructed to the
satisfaction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution control Board. We direct the District
Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police of the area concerned, to have all
these tanneries closed with immediate effect. Mr. Mehta has placed on record
the report of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control board.
Statement I of the Index, there is a list of 30 industries which have also not
been connected with any CETPs. According to the report, these industries have
not, till date set up pollution control devices. We direct the closure of these
industries also. List is as under. ..... The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control]
Board has filed another report dated January 18, 1996 pertaining to 51 Tanneries.
is dispute regarding the permissible limit of the quantity of total dissolved
the NEERI team is visiting these tanneries, they may examine the TDS aspect
also and advise this Court accordingly. Meanwhile, we do not propose to close
any of the tannery on the ground that it is discharging more than 2001 TDS.
report indicates that except the 17 units, all Other units are non-complaint
units in the sense that they are not complying with the BOD standards. Excepting
these 17 industries the remaining 34 tanneries listed hereunder are directed to
be closed forthwith.
We direct the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of the Police of the
area concerned to have all these industries mentioned above closed forthwith The
tanneries in the 5 districts of Tamil Nadu referred to in this order have been
operating for a longtime. Some of the tanneries are operating for a period of-
more than two decades. All this period these tanneries have been, polluting the
area. Needless to say that the total environment in the area has been polluted
issue show cause notice to these industries through their learned counsel who
are present in Court why they be not subjected to heavy pollution fine. We
direct the state of Tamil Nadu through the Industry Ministry, the Tamil Nadu
Pollution Central Board and all other authorities concerned and also the
Government of India through the Ministry of Environment and Forests not to
permit the setting up of further tanneries in the State of Tamil Nadu.
of this order be communicated to the concerned authorities within three days. To
come up for further consideration after the replies to the show cause. There
are large number of tanneries in the State of Tamil Nadu which have set up individual pollution control devices and
which according to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board are operating
satisfactorily. The fact however remains that all these tanneries are
discharging the treated efficient within the factory precinct itself. We direct
NEERI Team which is visiting this area to find out as to whether the discharge
of the effluent on the land within the factory premises is permissible
environmentally. M/s. Nandeem Tanning Company, Valayampet Vaniyambadi is one is
one of such industries. Copy of the report submitted by the Tamil Nadu
Pollution Control Board be forwarded to the NEERI. NEERI may inspect this
industry within ten days and file a report in this Court. Copy of this order be
communicated to NEERI.
regarding Distilleries in the State of Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has placed on record the factual report
regarding Distilleries mentioned in page 4 of the Index of its report dated April 5, 1996. Learned counsel for the Board
states that the Board shall issue necessary notices to these industries to set
up pollution control devices to the satisfaction of the Board, failing which
these distilleries shall be closed. The Pollution Control Board shall place a
status report before this Court." The NEERI submitted two further reports
on may 1, 1996 and June
11, 1996 in respect of
CETPs set up by various industries. The NEERI reports indicate that the physico-
chemical characteristics of ground water from dug wells in Ranipath, Thuthipath,
Valayambattu, Vandyambadi and various other places do not conform to the limits
prescribed for drinking purposes.
Court has been monitoring this petition for almost five years. The NEERI, Board
and the Central Pollution Control Board (Central Board) have visited the
tanning and other industries in the State of Tamil Nadu for several times. These expert bodies have offered all
possible assistance to these industries. The NEERI reports indicate that even
the seven operational CETPs are not functioning to its satisfaction. NEERI has
made several recommendations to be followed by the operational CETPs. Out of
the 30 CETP- sites which have been identified for tannery clusters in the five
districts of North Arcot Ambedkar, Erode Periyar, Dindigul Anna, Thrichi and Chengai
MGR. are under operation 10 are under construction and 13 are proposed. There
are large number of tanneries which are not likely to be connected with any
CETP and are required to set up pollution control devices on their own. Despite
repeated extensions granted by this Court during the last five years and prior
to that by the Board the tanneries in the State of Tamil Nadu have miserably failed to control
the pollution generated by them.
no doubt correct that the leather industry in India has become a major foreign exchange earner and at present
Tamil Nadu is the leading exporter of finished leather accounting for
approximately 80% of the country's export. Though the leather industry is of
vital importance to the country as it generates foreign exchange and provides
employment avenues it has no right to destroy the ecology, degrade the
environment and pose as a health hazard. It cannot be permitted to expand or
even to continue with the present production unless it tackles by itself the
problem of pollution created by the said industry.
traditional concept that development and ecology are opposed to each of her, is
no longer acceptable.
Development is the answer. In the International sphere "Sustainable
Development" as a concept came to be known for the first time in the
Stockholm Declaration of 1972. Thereafter, in 1987 the concept was given a
definite shape by the World Commission on Environment and Development in its
report called Court Common Future. The Commission was chaired by the then Prime
Minister of Norway Ms. G.H. Brundtland and as such the
report is popularly known as "Brundtland Report" 1991 the World
Conservation Union, United Nations Environment Programme and World Wide Fund
for Nature, jointly came out with a document called "Caring for the
Earth" which is a strategy for sustainable living.
came the Earth Summit held in June, 1992 at Rio
which saw the largest gathering of world leaders ever in the history -
deliberating and chalking out a blue pring for the survival of the planet.
Among the tangible achievements of the Rio Conference was the signing of two
conventions, one on biological diversity and another on climate change. These
conventions were signed by 153 nations. The delegates also approved by consensus
three non binding documents namely, a Statement on Forestry Principles a
declaration of principles on environmental policy and development and
initiatives and Agenda 21 a programme of action into the next century in areas
like poverty, population and pollution. during the two decades from Stockholm
to Rio "sustainable Development" and came to be accepted as a viable
concept to eradicate poverty and improve the quality of human life while living
within the carrying capacity of the supporting eco-systems.
Development: as defined by the Brundtland Report means "Development that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future
generations to meet their own needs". We have no hesitation in holding
that "Sustainable Development' As a balancing concept between eclogy and
development has been accepted as a part of the Customary International Law
though its salient feature have yet to be finalised by the International Law
of the salient principles of "Sustainable Development", as culled-out
from Brundtland Report and other international documents, are
Inter-Generational Equity, Use and Conservation of Nature Resources,
Environmental Protection, the Precautionary Principle, Polluter Pays principle,
Obligation to assist and cooperate, Eradication of Poverty and Financial
Assistance to the developing countries. We are, however, of the vies that
"The Precautionary Principle" and "The Polluter Pays"
principle are essential features of "Sustainable Development". The
"Precautionary Principle" - in the context of the municipal law -
Environment measures - by the State Government and the statutory Authorities
must anticipate, prevent' and attack the causes of environmental degradation.
Where there are threats of serious and irreversible damage lack of scientific
certainly should not be used as the reason for postponing, measures to prevent
"Onus of proof" is on the actor or the developer/industrial to show
that his action is environmentally benign.
Polluter Pays" principle has been held to be a sound principle by this
Court Indian Council for Enviro- Legal Action vs. Union of India J.T. 1996 (2)
196. The Court observed, "We are of the opinion that any principle evolved
in this 'behalf should be simple practical and suited to the conditions
obtaining in this country". The Court ruled that "Once the activity
carried on is hazardous or inherently dangerous, the person carrying on such
activity is liable to make good the loss caused to any other person by his
activity irrespective of the fact whether he took reasonable care while
carrying on his activity. The rule is premised upon the very nature of the
activity carried on".
the polluting industries are "absolutely liable to compensate for the harm
caused by them to villagers in the affected area, to the soil and to the
underground water and hence, they are bound to take all necessary measures to
remove sludge and other pollutants lying in the affected areas". The
"Polluter Pays" principle as interpreted by this Court means that the
absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate
the victims of pollution but also the cost of restoring the environmental
degradation. Remediation of the damaged environment is part of the process of
"Sustainable Development" and as such polluter is liable to pay the
cost to the individual sufferers as well as the cost of reversing the damaged
precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle have been accepted as
part of the law of the land.
21 of the Constitution of India guarantees protection of life and personal
liberty. Articles 47, 48A and 51A(g) of the Constitution are as under:
Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living
and to improve public health. 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.
(g) Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and
wild life. The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and
to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.
To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, takes, rivers
and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures." Apart from
the constitutional mandate to protect and improve the environment there are
plenty of post independence legislations on the subject but more relevant
enactments for our purpose are: The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution
Act 1974 (the Water Act), The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,
1981 (the Air Act) and the Environment Protection Act 1986 (the Environment
Act). The Water Act provides for the constitution of the Central Pollution
Control Board by the Central Government and the constitution of one State
Pollution Control boards by various State Governments in the country. The
Boards function under the control of the Governments concerned. The Water Act
prohibits the use or streams and wells for disposal of polluting matters. Also
provides for restrictions on outlets and discharge of effluents without
obtaining consent from the Board.
and penalties have been provided which include sentence of imprisonment. The
Air Act provides that the Central Pollution Control Board and the State
Pollution Control Boards constituted under the later Act shall also perform the
powers and functions under the Air Act. The main function of the Boards, under
the Air Act, is to improve the quality of the air and to prevent. control and
abate air pollution in the country. We shall deal with the Environment Act in
the later part of this judgement.
view of the above mentioned constitutional and statutory provisions we have no
hesitation in holding that the precautionary principle and the polluter pays pcinciple
are part of the environmental law of the country.
otherwise once these principles are accepted as part of the Customary
International Law there would be no difficultly in accepting them as part of
the domestic law.
almost accepted proposition of law that the rule of Customary International Law
which are not contrary to the municipal law shall be deemed to have been
incorporated in the domestic law and shall be followed by the Courts of Law.
support we may refer to Justice H.R. Khanna's opinion in Addl. Distt.
Magistrate Jabalpur vs Shivakant Shukla (AIR 1976 SC
1207) Jolly George Varghese's case (AIR 1980 SC 470) and Gramophone Company's
case (AIR 1984 SC 667).
Constitutional and statutory provision protect a persons right to fresh air,
clean water and pollution free environment, but the source of the right is the
inalienable common law right of clean environment. It would be useful to quote
a paragraph from Blackstone's commentaries on the Laws of England (Commentaries on the Laws of England of Sir Willian Blackstone) Vol.III,
fourth edition published in 1876. Chapter XIII, "Of Nuisance" depicts
the law on the subject in the following words :
if a person keeps his hogs, or other noisome animals, 'or allows filth to
accumulate on his premises, so near the house of another, that the stench
incommodes him and makes the air unwholesome, this is an injurious nuisance, as
it tends to deprive him of the use and benefit of his house. A like injury is,
if one's neighbour sets up and exercises any offensive trade; as a tanner's, a
tallow chandler's, or the like; for though these are lawful and necessary
trades, yet they should be exercised in remote places; for the rule is, sic utere
"tuo, ut alienum non laedas;" this therefore is an actionable
nuisance. 'And on a similar principle a constant ringing of bells in one's
immediate neighbourhood may be a nuisance ....... With regard to other
corporeal heriditaments; it is a nuisance to stop or divert water that used to
run to another's meadow or mill; to corrupt or poison a water-course, by
erecting a due house or a lime-pit, for the use of trade, in the upper part of
the stream; 'to pollute a pond.
which another is entitled to water his cattle: to obstruct a drain; or in short
to do any act in common property, that in its consequences must necessarily
tend to the prejudice of one's neighbour. So closely does the law of England
enforce that excellant rule of gospel-morality, of "doing to others. as we
would they should do unto ourselves ." Our legal system having been
founded on the British Common law the right of a person to pollution free
environment is a part of the basic jurisprudence of the land.
Statement of Objects and Reasons to the Environment Act, inter alia, states as under
decline in environmental quality has been evidenced by increasing pollution,
loss of vegetal cover and biological diversity, excessive concentrations of
harmful chemicals in the ambient atmosphere and in food chains, growing risks
of environmental accidents and threats to life support systems. The world
community's resolves to protect and enhance the environmental quality found
expression in the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human
Environment held in Stock hold in June, 1972.
of India participated in the Conference and strongly voiced the environmental
concerns. While several measures have been taken for environmental protection
both before and after the Conference, the need for a general legislation
further to implement the decisions of the Conference has become increasingly evident
lass generally focus on specific types of pollution or on specific categories
of hazardous substances. Some major areas of environmental hazardous are not
covered. There also exist uncovered gaps in areas of major environmental
hazards. There are inadequate linkages in handling matters of industrial and
environmental safety. Control mechanisms to guard against slow, insidious build
up of hazardous substances, especially new chemicals, in the environment are
weak. Because of a multiplicity of regulatory agencies, there is need for an
authority which can. Assume the lead role for studying, planning and
implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and to give
direction to, and co-ordinate a system of speedy and adequate response to
emergency situations threatening the environment ...... In view of what has
been state above, there is urgent need for the enactment of a general legislation
on environmental protection which inter alia, should enable co- ordination of
activities of the various regulatory agencies, creation of an authority or
authorities with adequate powers for environmental protection, regulation of
discharge of environmental pollutants and handling of hazardous substances,
speedy response in the event of accidents threatening environment and deterent
punishment to those who endanger human environment, safety and health".
3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the Environment Act which are relevant are as under :
Power of Central Government to take measures to protect and improve environment
- (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act the Central, Government shall have
till power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the
purpose of protecting improving the quality of the environment and preventing
controlling and abating environmental pollution.
particular, and without prejudice to the Generality of the provisions of
section (1), such measures may include measures with respect to all or any of
the following matters, namely :-
of actions by the State Governments, officers and other authorities –
tis Act, or the rules made thereunder, or
any other law for the time being in force which is relatable to the objects of
and execution of a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and
abatement of environmental pollution;
down standards for the quality of environment in its various aspects;
down standards for the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from
various sources whatsoever :
that different standards for emission or discharge may be laid down under this
clause from different sources having regard to the quality or composition of
the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from such sources :
restriction of areas in which any industries, operation or processes or class
of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be
carried out object to certain safeguards;
down procedures and safeguards for the prevention of accidents which may cause
environmental pollution and remedial measures for such accidents;
down procedures and safeguards for the handling of hazardous substances;
examination of such manufacturing processes, materials and substances as are
likely to cause environmental pollution;
out and sponsoring investigations and research relating to problems of
Inspection of any premises, plant, equipment, machinery, manufacturing or other
processes, material or substances and giving, by order, of such direction to
such authorities, officers or persons as it may consider necessary to take
steps for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;
or recognition or environmental laboratories and institutes to carry out the
functions entrusted to such environmental laboratories and institutes under
and dissemination of information in respect of matters relating to
preparation of manuals, codes or guides relating to the prevention, control and
abatement of environmental pollution;
other matters as the Central Government deems necessary or expedient for the
purpose of securing the effective implementation of the provisions of this Act.
The Central Government may, if it considers it necessary or expedient so to do
for the purposes of this Act, by order, published in the powers and functions
(including the power to issue directions under Section 5 ) of the Central
Government under this act and for taking measures with respect to such of the
matters referred to in sub-section (2) as may be mentioned in the order and
subject to the supervision and control of the Central government and the
provisions of such order, such authority or authorities may exercise the powers
or perform the functions or take the measures so mentioned in the order as if
such authority or authorities had been empowered by this Act to exercise those
powers or perform those functions or take such measures.
Appointment or officers and their powers and functions (1) without prejudice to
the provisions of sub-section (3) of section 3, the Central Government may
appoint officers with such designations as it thinks fit for the purposes of
this Act and may entrust to them such of the powers and functions under this
Act as it may deem fit.
officers appointed under sub-section (1) shall be subject to the general
control and direction of the Central Government or, if so directed by that
Government, also of the authority or authorities, if any, constituted under
sub-section (3) of section 3 of any other authority or officer".
Power to give directions. - Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law
but subject to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government may, in the
exercise of its powers and performance of its functions under this Act, issue
direction in writing to any person, officer or any authority and such person,
officer or authority shall be bound to comply with such directions.
Explanation. - for the avoidance of doubts, it
is hereby declared that the power to issue directions under this section
includes the power to direct --- (a) the closure, prohibition or regulation of
any industry, operation or process; or (b) stoppage or regulation of the supply
of electricity or water or any other service.
Persons carrying on industry, operation etc. not to allow emission or discharge
of environmental pollutants in excess of the standards. No. person carrying on
any industry, operation or process shall discharge or emit or permit to be
discharged or emitted any environmental pollutant in excess of such standards
as may be prescribed.
Persons handling hazardous substances to comply with procedural safeguards. -
No person shall handle or cause to be handled any hazardous substance except in
accordance with such procedure end after complying with such safeguards as may
3(1), 3(2), and 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules 1986 (the Rules) are
Standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants. - (1) For the
purposes of protecting and improving the quality of the environmental and
preventing and abating environmental pollution, the standards for emission or
discharge of environmental pollutants from the industries, operations or
processes shall be as specified in Schedule I to IV).
Notwithstanding anything contained in sb-rule(l), the Control Board or a State
Board may specify more stringent standards from those provided in (Schedule to
IV) in respect of any specific industry, operation or process depending upon
the quality of the recipient system and after recording reasons, therefore, in
Prohibition and restriction on the location of industries and the carrying on
processes and operations in different areas - (1) The Central Government may
take into consideration the following factors while prohibiting or restricting
the location of industries and carrying on of processes and operations an
different areas :
Standards for quality of environment in its various aspects laid down for an
The maximum allowable limits of concentration of various environment pollutants
(including noise) for an area.
The likely emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from an industry,
process or operation proposed to be prohibited or restricted.
The topographic and climatic features of an area.
The biological diversity of the area which, in the opinion of the Central
Government, needs to be preserved.
Environmentally compatible land use.
Net adverse environmental impact likely to be caused by an industry, process or
operation proposed to be prohibited or restricted.
Proximity to a protected area under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological
Sites and Remains Act, 1958 or a sanctuary, National Park, game reserve or
closed area notified, as such under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 19/2, or
places protected under any treaty, agreement or convention with any other
country or countries or in pursuance of any decision made in any international
conference, association or other body.
Proximity to human settlements (x) Any other factors as may be considered by
the Central Government to be relevant to the protection of the environment in
thus obvious that the Environment Act contains useful provisions for
controlling pollution. The main purpose of the Act is to create an authority or
authorities under Section 3(3) of the Act with adequate powers to control
pollution and protect the environment. It is a pity that till date no authority
has been constituted by the Central Government. The work which is required to
be done by an authority in terms of Section 3(3) read with other provision of
the Act is being done by this Court and the other Courts in the country. It is
high time that the Central Government realises its responsibility and statutory
duty to protect the degrading environment in the country. If the conditions in
the five districts of Tamil Nadu, where tanneries are operating, are permitted
to continue then in the near future all rivers/canals shall be polluted,
underground waters contaminated, agricultural lands turned barren and the
residents of the area exposed to serious diseases. lt is, therefore, necessary
for this Court to direct the Central Government to take immediate action under
the provisions of the Environment Act.
are more than 900 tanneries operating in the five districts of Tamil Nadu. Some
of them may, by now, have installed the necessary pollution control measures,
they have been polluting the environment for over a decade and in some cases
even for a longer period. This Court has in various orders indicated that these
tanneries are liable to pay pollution fine. The polluters must compensate the
affected persons and also pay the cost of restoring the damaged ecology.
M.C. Mehta, learned counsel for the petitioner has invited our attention to the
Notification GOMs No. 213 dated March 30, 1989 which reads are under :
:- In the Government Order first read above, the Government have ordered, among
other things, that no industry causing serious water pollution should be
permitted with in one kilometer from the embankments of rivers, streams, dams
etc, and that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board Should furnish a list of
such industries to all local bodies. It has been suggested that it is necessary
to have a sharper definition for water sources so that ephemeral water
collections like rein water ponds, drains, sewerages (bio-degradable) etc. may
be excluded form the purview of the above order. The Chairman, Tamil Nadu
Pollution Control Board has stated that the scope of the Government Order may
be restricted to reservoirs, rivers and public drinking water sources.
also stated that there should be a complete ban on location of highly polluting
industries within 1 Kilometer of certain water sources.
Government have carefully examined the above suggestions. The Government impose
a total ban on the setting up of the highly polluting industries mentioned in
Annexure - I to this order ' within one Kilometer from the embankments of the
water sources mentioned in Annexure-II to this order.
Government direct that under any circumstance if any highly polluting industry
is proposed to be set up within one kilometer from the embankments of water
sources other than those mentioned in Annexure-II to this order, the Tamil Nadu
Pollution Control Board should examine the case and obtain the approval of the
Government for it".
to the Notification includes Distilleries, tanneries, fertilizer, steel plants
and foundries as the highly polluting industries. We have our doubts whether
the above quoted government order is being enforced by the Tamil Nadu
Government. The order has been issued to control pollution and protect the
environment. We are of the view that the order should be strictly enforced and
no industry listed in Annexure-l to the order should be permitted to be set up
in the prohibited area.
counsel for the tanneries raised an objection that the standard regarding total
dissolved solids (TDS) fixed by the Board was no. justified. This Court by the
order date April 9, 1996 directed the NEERI to examine this aspect and give its
opinion. In its report dated June 11, 1996 NEERI has justified the standards
stipulated by the Board. The reasoning of the NEERI given in its report dated
June 11, 1996 is as under:
total dissolved solids in ambient water have phisiological, industrial and
economic significance. The consumer acceptance of mineralized water decreases
in direct proportion to increased mineralization as indicated by Bruvold
High Total dissolved solids (TDS), including chlorides and sulphates, are
objectionable due to possible physiological effect and mineral taste that they
impart to water.
levels of total dissolved solids produce Laxative/cathartic/purgative effect in
consumers. the requirement of soap and other detergents in household and
industry is directly related to water hardness as brought out by DeBoer and
High concentration of mineral salts, particularly sulphates and chlorides, are
also associated with costly corrosion damage in wastewater treatment systems,
as detailed by patterson and Banker
par particular importance is the tendency of scale deposits with high TDS
thereby resulting in high fuel consumption in boilers.
Ministry of Environment and forests (MEF) has not categorically laid down
standards for inland surface water discharge for total dissolved solids (TDS), sulphates
and chlorides. The Decision on these standards rests with the respective state
Pollution Control Boards as per the requirements based on local site
conditions. The standards stipulated by the TNPCB are justified on the aforereffered
prescribed standards of the TNPCB for inland surfaces water discharge can be
met for tannery wastewaters cost-effectively through proper implant control
measures in tanning operation, and rationally designed and effectively operated
wastewater treatment plants (ETPs & CETPs). Tables 3 and 5 depict the
quality of groundwater in some areas around tanneries during peak summer period
(June 3- 5, 1996). Table 8 presents the data collection by TNPCB at individual ETPs
indicating that TDS, sulphates and chlorides concentrations are below the
prescribed standards for inland surface water discharge. The quality of ambient
waters needs to the maintained through the standards stipulated by TNPCB."
The Board has Power under the Environment Act and the Rules to lay down
standards for emissions or discharge of environmental Pollutants. Rule 3(2) of
the Rules even permit the Board to specify more stringent standards from those
provided under the Rules. The NEERI having justified the standards stipulated
by the Board, We direct that these standards are to be maintained by the
tanneries and other industries in the State of Tamil Nadu.
in view the scenario discussed by us in this judgment, we order and direct as Under:-
Central Government shall constitute an authority under Section 3(3) of the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and shall confer on the said authority all
the powers necessary to deal with the situation created by the tanneries and
other polluting industries in the State of Tamil Nadu. The Authority shall be headed by a retired judge of the High Court and
it may have other members- preferably with expertise in the field of pollution
control and environment protection- to be appointed by the Central Government.
The Central Government shall confer on the said authority the powers to issue
directions under Section 5 of the Environment Act and for taking measures with
respect to the matters referred to in Clause (v), (vi) (vii) (viii) (ix) (x)
and (xii) of Sub-Section (2) of Section 3. The Central Government shall consitute
the authority before September
authority so constituted by the Central Government shall implement the
"precautionary principle" and the "polluter pays"
principle. The authority shall, with the help of expert opinion and after
giving opportunity to the concerned polluters assess the loss to the
ecology\environment in the affected areas and shall also identify the
individuals/families who have suffered because of the pollution and shall
assess the compensation to be paid to the said individuals/families. The
authority shall further determine the compensation to be recovered from the polluters
as cost of reversing the damaged environment. The authority shall lay down just
and fair procedure for completing the exercise.
authority shall compute the compensation under two heads namely, for reversing
the ecology and for payment to individuals. A statement showing the total
amount to be recovered, the names of the polluters from who the amount is to be
recovered, the amount to be recovered from each polluter, the persons to who
the compensation is to be paid and the amount payable to each of them shall be
forwarded to the Collector\District Magistrates of the area concerned.
Collector\District magistrate shall recover the amount from the polluters, if
necessary, as arrears of land revenue. He shall disburse the compensation
awarded by the authority to be affected persons/families.
authority shall direct the closure of the industry owned/managed by a polluter
in case he evades or refuses to pay the compensation awarded against him. This
shall be in addition to the recovery from his as arrears of land revenue.
industry may have set up the necessary pollution control device at present but
it shall be liable to pay for the past pollution generated by the said industry
which has resulted in the environmental degradation and suffering to the
residents of the area.
impose pollution fine of Rs. 10,000/- each on all the tanneries in the
districts of North Arcot Ambedkar, Erode Periyar, Dindigul Anna, Trichi and Chengai
M.G.R. The fine shall be paid before October 31, 1996 in the office of the
Collector/District Magistrate concerned. We direct the Collectors/District
Magistrates of these districts to recover the fines from the tanneries. The
money shall be deposited, alongwith the compensation amount recovered from the
polluters, under a separate head called "Environment protection Fund"
and shall be utilised for compensating the affected persons as identified by
the authorities and also for restoring the damaged environment. The pollution
fine is liable to the recovered as arrears of land revenue. The tanneries which
fail to deposit the amount by October 31, 1996 shall be closed forthwith and
shall also be liable under the Contempt of Courts Act.
authority, in consultation with expert bodies like NEERI, Central Board, Board
shall frame scheme/schemes for reversing the damage caused to the ecology and
environment by pollution in the State of Tamil Nadu. The scheme/schemes so
framed shall be executed by the State Government under the supervision of the
Central Government. The expenditure shall be met from the "Environment
protection fund" and from other sources provided by the state Government
and the Central Government.
suspend the closure orders in respect of all the tanneries in the five
districts of North Arcot Ambedkar, Erode Periyar, Dindigul Anna, Trichi and Chengai
M.G.R. We direct all the tanneries in the above five districts to set up CETPs
or Individual Pollution control Devices on or before November 30, 1996. Those
connected with CETPs shall have to install in addition the primary devices in
the tanerries. All the tanneries in the above five districts shall obtain the
consent of the Board to function and operate with effect from December 15,
1996. The tanneries who are refused consent or who fail to obtain the consent
of the Board by December 15, 1996 shall be closed forthwith.
direct the Superintendent of Police and the Collector/district
Magistrate/Deputy Commissioner of the district concerned to close all those
tanneries with immediate effect who fail to obtain the consent from the Board
by the said date. Such tanneries shall not be reopened unless the authority
permits them to do so. It would be open to the authority to close such
tanneries permanently or to direct their relocation.
The Government Order No. 213 dated March 30, 1989 shall be enforced forthwith.
No. new industry listed in Annexure-I to the Notification shall be permitted to
be set up within the prohibited area. The authority shall review the case of
all the industries which are already operating in the prohibited area and it
would be open to authority to direct the relocation of any of such industries.
The standards stipuated by the Board regarding total dissolved solids (TDS) and
approved by the NEERI shall be operative. All the tanneries and other
industries in the State of Tamil Nadu shall comply with the said standards.
quality of ambient waters has to be maintained through the standards stipulated
by the Board.
have issued comprehensive directions for achieving the end result in this case.
It is not necesary for this Court to monitor these matters any further. we are
of the view that the Madras High Court would be in a better position to monitor
these matters hereinafter. We, therefore, request the Chief Justice of the Madras
High Court to constitute a special Bench "Green bench" to deal with
this case and other environmental matters. We make it clear that it would be
open to the Bench to pass any appropriate order/orders keeping in view the
directions issued by us. We may mention that "Green Benches" are
already functioning in Calcutta, Madhya Pradesh and some other High Courts. We
Direct the Registry of this Court to send the records to the registry of the
Madras High matter as a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India
and deal with it in accordance with law and also in terms of the directions
issued by us. We give liberty to the parties to approach the High Court as and
M.C. Mehta has been assisting this Court to our utmost satisfaction. We place
on record our appreciation for Mr. Mehta. We direct the State of Tamil Nadu to pay Rs.50,000/- towards legal
fees and other out of pocket expenses incurred by Mr. Mehta.
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