India - Duties of State in Regard to Environment
KINKRI DEVI and another v. STATE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH and others
The Petitioners sought an order of the Court to have a mining lease cancelled, to restrain the Respondents from operating the mines covered by the lease in such a manner as to pose a danger to the adjoining lands, water resources, pastures, forests, wildlife, ecology, environment and the inhabitants of the area, and for compensation for the damage caused by the uncontrolled quarrying of the limestone.
Articles 48A and 5lA(g) of the Constitution.
The court issued the following interim directions:
- The State Government to set up a High-Level Committee to examine the question, inter alia, whether there has been a proper balance between the tapping of the mineral resources for development on the one hand and the preservation of the environment on the other in the issue of such grants, and to submit such report to the Court.
- The second respondent to refrain from carrying out mining operations until further orders.
- No lease for mining of limestone to be granted or renewed nor temporary permits issued till the report of the Committee is received and further orders made by the Court.
The Court observed that in Articles 48A and 51A(g) there is both a constitutional pointer to the State and a constitutional duty of the citizens not only to protect but also to improve the environment and to preserve and safeguard the forests, the flora and fauna, the rivers and lakes and all the other water resources of the country, and went on to state: "To ensure the attainment of the constitutional goal of the protection and improvement of the natural wealth and environment. and to protect the people inhabiting the vulnerable areas from the hazardous consequences of the arbitrary exercise of the power of granting mining leases and of indiscriminate operation of mines on the strength of such leases without due regard to their life, liberty and property, the court will be left with no alternative but to intervene effectively by issuing appropriate writs, orders and directions including the direction as to the closure of the mines, the operation whereof is proving to be hazardous and the total prohibition of the grant or renewal of mining leases till the Government evolves a long-term plan based on a scientific study with a view to regulating the exploitation of the minerals in the State without detriment to the environment, the ecology, the natural wealth and resources and the local population. However, the need for judicial intervention may not arise even in those cases where the Court's jurisdiction is invoked, if the administration takes preventive, remedial and curative measures".
AIR 1985 SC 652
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