Pakistan - Constitutional Rights, Mining Operations, Water Pollution
GENERAL SECRETARY, WEST PAKISTAN SALT MINERS LABOUR UNION (CBA)
KHWRA, KHELUM v. THE DIRECTOR, INDUSTRIES AND MINERAL DEVELOPMENT, PUNJAB
A Petition was filed in the Supreme Court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution against the pollution of the water supply source to the residents and mine workers of Khewra. The spring Mitha Pattan was the only major source of drinking water in the area. Accordingly, a water catchment area was reserved and grant of mining leases in the area was prohibited prior to 1911. Notwithstanding the prohibition, the authorities concerned had granted mining leases in the catchment area. The Petitioners alleged that as a result, poisonous waste water discharged from the mines polluted the reservoir creating a health hazard, and that the allotment and grant of leases for mining in the catchment area was illegal and mala-fides, and prayed for cancellation of licenses.
The Constitution of Pakistan 1973.
The claim of the Petitioners, though framed in general terms, seeks enforcement of the right of the residents to clean and unpolluted water.
The Court allowed the petition stating that persons exposed to such danger are entitled to claim that their fundamental right to life guaranteed to them by the Constitution has been violated and that there is a case for enforcement of fundamental rights by giving directions or passing orders to restrain the parties and authorities from committing such violation or to perform their duties.
Quoting Article 184(3) of the Constitution, the Court observed that "It is well settled that in human rights cases/public interest litigation under Article 184(3), the procedural trappings and restrictions, precondition of being an aggrieved person and other similar technical objections cannot bar the jurisdiction of the Court. This Court has vast power under Article 184(3) to investigate into questions of fact as well, independently, by recording evidence or appointing commissions or any other reasonable and legal manner to ascertain the correct position. Article 184(3) provides that this Court has power to make Order of the nature mentioned in Article 199. The fact that the Order or direction should be in the nature mentioned in Article 199 enlarges the scope of granting relief and the relief so granted by this Court can be moulded according to the facts and circumstances of each case."
Accordingly, the Court proceeded to deal with the facts relevant to the question whether the mining activity could pollute the water supply and made an Order directing that PCC should shift within four months from the location of the mouth of mine 27A to a safe distance from the stream and small reservoir. The Court also appointed a Commission with powers of inspection, recording evidence etc. to monitor the implementation of the Orders. Additionally all the mines operating adjacent to the catchment area were to take measures to the satisfaction of the Commission which will prevent pollution of the reservoir, stream and catchment area.
The authorities concerned were also ordered not to grant new licenses in the catchment area or to renew old ones referred to in a schedule, without the prior approval of Court.
Shehla Zia v. WAPDA PLD 1994 SC 693
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