Case Analysis: Rural Litigation and Entitlement kendra & Ors vs State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors

Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra and Others vs State of Uttar Pradesh and Others

Introduction

Economic growth and environmental protection are two basic concepts that can clash with each other. But when a state directs environmental policy, it must focus on how to strike a balance between these. Without it, states will not be able to achieve successful sustainable development. But no matter how much theoretical background is discussed, it is questionable whether this is the case in the practical world. This is because of the desire of man to move forward as an economic being. Meanwhile, the state has empowered institutions and officials to strike a balance, and their honest performance is expected not only in constitutional law but also in administrative law. In the event of failure to do so, the court may point to the above judgment as a preliminary judgment proving that environmental protection intervenes.

Case-based Incidental Facts

This case is better known as Dehradun Valley Litigation. The case is also a landmark decision that goes against industrial demands and fights to protect forest resources and ecological balance. The area where the case is based is Mussoorie, the most fertile area in the Himalayas. Limestone extraction was a major industry in the region, and dynamite was exploded on a large scale. Furthermore, although this was a mountainous area, the industrialists turned the tide and it adversely affected the topography of the mountains. Early on, the fertility of the area was depleted and the plants were destroyed. As a result, the ecological balance was disturbed and landslides took place, destroying villagers, houses, cattle and agricultural lands.

Mining was banned by the State Minister of Mines in 1961 in a bid to end the situation, but industrialists have resumed work with government officials. As a result, the area was re-leased in 1962 for 20 years. Accordingly, the first steps were immediately subdued. After a period of 20 terms, the card manufacturers again filed tax renewal applications in 1982, but the government refused to renew the licenses on the grounds of environmental destruction. The industrialists filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court against the government’s decision. The court accordingly granted permission to resume mining. It is based on the premise that “economic factors are more important than environmental factors.”

But the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra intervened and sent a letter to the Supreme Court emphasizing the environmental devastation. The turning point in this historic case was the Supreme Court’s decision to consider this article in accordance with Article 32 of the Constitution.  

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Contribution of Appointed Committee Reports

The proceedings took on a complex nature due to the large number of mine owners and various objections from them. In 1983, the court suspended the limestone operation. The Bhargava Committee was appointed to review the applicability of the Mines Act, 1952 and other applicable laws and regulations to determine whether it is operating in accordance with the proper standards and safeguards. The committee divided the mines into three sections, A, B and C, and presented their decisions on the environmental feasibility of each section. In addition to the report, the court appointed an expert committee headed by Professor Valdia and two others to focus on the Main Boundary Thrust.

The court also appointed a second committee of inquiry as it wanted to decide the case in a more equitable manner considering the principles of natural justice. Accordingly, the Bandyopadhyay Committee was appointed to consider the demands of the miners and to consider the demands of the victims, as well as the protection of the environment. The specialty here was that the miners were also given the opportunity to submit it within six weeks if there was any protest.

It is important and progressive that the functioning of these committees be based on scientific data and evidence. Moreover, it is clear that the committees have realized the need to strike an economic as well as an environmental balance. An example would be the consideration of the environmental damage caused by mining under the classification.

How Environmental Issues were Applied

Based on the above, the court commenced consideration of the writ petition in February 1987. In particular, the committee considered whether there was an opportunity to continue mining in a way that would not affect the environment and the ecological balance. The court considered the geological significance of the Himalayan range on the basis of environmental factors. Concerns were also raised about the control of rainfall and the immense protection that India naturally provides. The judiciary has conducted a more ecological study of the importance of the Himalayan range, a resource of India.

“The Himalayan range, the source of the Yamuna, Ganga and Brahmaputra, is the source of other tributaries. Through the green trees, inaccessible springs and beautiful flowers, the fertility of nature has been maintained for many years. The Himalayas are a storehouse of medicinal plants as well. Dense forests in the lower reaches also contribute to rainfall. “

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The court then emphasized the importance of Mansoorie and Dehradoon Valley, which is not only an Eco-center but also a tourist attraction, an educational center as well as a research center. But the court has pointed out that the risk posed by unstable, irrational limestone quarrying is even more serious. It is also noted that India’s forest cover, which was around 70% decades ago, is now only 10%.  The impact on natural water resources has been largely due to careless limestone quarrying, inadvertent disposal of sludge, and the eruptions used for it. The impact on net resources in the future through allowing for these unsafe mining is also being considered.

The judiciary linked the environmental significance of the limestone industry with historical developments. Limestone quarrying was initially done on a small scale and by 1904 it was all under government control. The Bandopadhyay record shows that in 1911 only four limestone quarries were found. But until 1962, the Uttar Pradesh government had given permission for limestone quarrying through temporary permits. Accordingly, about 105 licenses have been issued which have blocked the natural rivers due to the adverse activities carried out thereby, disrupting the natural silence and affecting the entire environment.

In disclosing environmental issues, the court also considered the relationship between the environment and human practices. Over the years, the needs of the people have been met by the environment more generously. But it is practically clear that population growth has increased the problem of balancing demand and supply over a limited amount of land. Accordingly, the court emphasized that these problems are caused by environmental destruction as a result of man’s efforts to seize natural resources. That is to say, the use of natural resources for development activities should be limited and it should be done with more care.  That is, the Court emphasized the rights of future generations to natural resources, taking into account the 1972 United Nations Conference on Environmental Development (the Stockholm Convention.)

Judgments Given by the Court

The miners were adamantly opposed to the trial, and the Environmental Protection Act of 1986 was passed. He urged the judiciary not to interfere further and to empower the authorities to act in accordance with the relevant powers. However, the court rejected this argument, citing the fact that the case is still pending. The court therefore analyzed the matter in a more sensitive manner, deviating from the normal course of action. Therefore, the need for a methodology was emphasized as mining activities could not be justified.

  • Therefore, the court went beyond the ordinary requirements and asked for afforestation, although the loss to the valley could not be reimbursed. It was also decided that the area should be provided with the necessary funds and facilities for reforestation.
  • From an environmental point of view, the court ruled that limestone mining contributes significantly to the country’s economy but should be allowed only to the extent necessary.
  • If another piece of land is given for limestone mining, priority should be given to the lessee. There are also a number of workers who will lose their jobs as a result of this order. Priority should be given to the jobs in the task force that will be set up for reforestation.
  • Administrative and legislative strategies need to be formulated to balance environmental and developmental values on the social and economic needs of the country. The judiciary also plays a crucial role in determining the scope of powers and functions of administrative bodies and in balancing the environment with development.
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Matters to the Future

The right to a healthy right is recognized as a fundamental right through Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It cannot therefore be presented as an economic factor to violate. But the court ruled that protecting the environment was not the sole responsibility of the government. It is a social responsibility and, as stated in Article 51A (g) of the Constitution, it is a fundamental duty and a constant reminder to every citizen. Therefore, the achievement of a state by its rational objectives must be on a sustainable basis and a part of it must be set aside to protect the environment. This case was decided in the late 20th century, but until recently it could be described as a more life sentence. The reason for this is that the judges have tried to apply many environmental issues and always combine them with legal issues. That is, the judiciary has conducted proceedings emphasizing environmental sensitivity rather than merely presenting legal issues. In the final analysis, the Court has focused not only on the framework of interpretation but also on policy decision making, including the need to replant afforestation. Therefore, this case can be described as a colorful case that illuminated the history of environmental protection and also illuminated the future.

Author: Tharuka Hettiarachchi,
Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

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