This judgement is interrelated to prior Supreme Court decisions on the same subject. The Supreme Court has accepted a writ case filed by the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, alleging that lime-stone excavations in the Mussoorie Hill range, India, are being conducted unlawfully and illegally. It was argued that the quarries posed a threat to the ecology and overstated the presence of perennial water springs.
In during Writ Petitions’ proceedings, the Court formed a Commission to investigate the limestone quarries mentioned in the Writ Petitions. A task force on the extraction of limestone quarries inside the Dehradun-Mussoorie region was also formed by the Indian government.
On March 12, 1985, the Court adopted a comprehensive order that included multiple directives and stated that the details of the order would be included in a later decision. Furthermore, the court decided that it was not necessary to provide any additional justifications than those previously anticipated in the Court’s order of March 12, 1985, since these broad grounds had been adequately stated in that manner.
RLEK (Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra) is a non-governmental organisation with its headquarters in Uttarakhand. Its headquarters are at Dehradun, the state capital of Uttarakhand. It has progressed as a result of years of struggle against atrocities perpetrated against the poor and disenfranchised.
RLEK has fought for societies as well as individuals in the courts of justice. Some of the court’s rulings in these cases forced the government to enact new legislation. The Kendra is working tirelessly to create a national awareness of widespread violations of fundamental rights. The Bonded Labor Abolition Act of 1976 was broadcast thanks to RLEK’s efforts. The Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) was passed in 1988. The 1986 Environmental Protection Act was enacted to protect the ecosystem.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The Mussoorie hill chain of the Himalayas includes Doon Valley. The Doon Valley had a lot of resources. Numerous rivers originate in the Mussoorie hills, completing the valley region’s natural flourishing. However, in the 1950s, it has become a location for limestone mining, as well as the valley began to degrade as a result of the use of explosives, tree cutting, and severe mining.
Throughout 1955 and 1965, the Doon valley’s limestone mining methods grew more dispersed. Detonation was used to remove minerals, which resulted in a lack of flora in the valley. Mudslides, flooding, water shortages, extreme heat, and agricultural decimation had robbed the valley of its beautiful nature by the early 1980s.
The Uttar Pradesh State Department of Mines outlawed mining in the state in 1961. However, in 1962, the state legislature approved several mining licences for a period of 20 years, and quarrying resumed. As contracts for restoration were available in 1982, the state banned them due to environmental damage. Mining firms have petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the government’s decision. The Allahabad high court approved mining in the Doon valley, favouring economic gain above environmental concerns.
In 1983, a regional Dehradun NGO, the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), filed a protest letter with the Supreme Court against India’s environmental poverty. This complaint was filed as a writ petition with the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court ordered that all present mining operations in the valley be evaluated. The court also ordered the state government to build a website for the region’s agriculture.
THE FOLLOWING ARE THE ISSUES MADE IN THIS CASE:
- Does mining in the Dehradun Valley violate the Forest Conservation Act of 1980?
- Is there any evidence that mining operations have harmed the ecosystem in the area?
- Is it true that quarries resulted in permanent water springs?
The petitioners contended-
Ecological degradation in Doon Valley would obstruct regional residents’ ability to live their lives, infringing on their basic right to a healthy ecosystem Article 21 of the Constitutional provisions includes the right to a healthy environment as element of the right to life.
The state’s permission for mining was withdrawn when the people rejected lease repayment.
Because forests are on a protected list, central govt approval must be required for mining operations as well.
The respondents objected to this-
The Supreme Court ought to be aware of the troubling problem, which is the state’s administrative installations under the Environmental Protection Act. If Respondents claimed that now the Mines Act of 1952 covered all mining and construction processes should be a subject for the state to decide.
Mining activities ought not be stopped since they are vital to the interests of the nation and protect the government ‘s foreign revenue position.
Mine closures will result in the layoff of mine employees and labourers.
The case was presented to the Supreme Court for the first time in 1983, and this has been continuing ever since. While the matter was yet in court, Parliament approved the Environment Protection Act in 1980. The respondent panel argued that perhaps the case should be dismissed since the updated statute accomplishes the goal. In this situation, the court would adhere to the EPA’s regulatory power. The suit was dismissed by the court since the litigation had already begun before the statute of limitations had been created, and crucial texts, proof, and other guidelines had already been supplied.
The mining operations according to the respondents, were undertaken in compliance with the Mining Act of 1952 as well as other appropriate legislation The court appointed the Bhargava committee to go into the specifics. The judge ordered that the most hazardous mines in Mussoorie City be halted, based on the Bhargava committee’s proposal. In 1985, the court established a new committee (the Bandyopadhyay Committee) to review the previous committee’s findings. This committee also suggested assistance for impoverished valley inhabitants. After considering the environmental impact, the court granted permission for some mining firms to work in the region. A large operation controlled by the state of Uttar Pradesh may also proceed to run because the environmental effect became less evident.
JUDGEMENT OF THIS CASE:
Simultaneously, as the Supreme Court took up the case, the Central Govt became concerned about the Valley’s important mining activities. In the year 1983, The Indian govt assigned a Subcommittee to evaluate the limestone inquiry in the Dehradun-Mussoorie region in the Dehradun Valley Litigation case. Both of the government’s Working Group and the court’s committee produced similar results on the mines’ negative impact on the environment, according to D.N. Bhargava. The Working Party also prepared court assessments on the restricted mining activities that were allowed to continue. Government approved the Environment Protection Act in 1986, during in the course of the dispute.
Following that, the Environmental Protection Act classified the Valley as an environmentally vulnerable region. Additionally, underneath the oversight of the Minister for Environment and Forests, the institution established a Doon Valley Board, which was charged with preserving and rehabilitating polluted areas of the Valley. As per the Supreme Court, “mining in specified forests in the Dehradun valley violates the Forest Conservation Act. The Forest Conservation Act, on the other hand, only bans non-forest activities on forest land that have not been authorised by the government.” In addition to ecological justice and national security concerns, the Supreme Court was worried about the well-being of labour and workers who’d been remained unpaid by the end of the Dehradun Valley operations.
The following instructions were given by the Court:
- Mine lessees whose activities were halted by the court will be granted first preference for leases in newly opened limestone mining regions, according to court orders.
- Orders that the central department of Environment’s Eco-Task Force recover and replant the mining-damaged area, and that, employees affected by mine shutdown be given first preference for employment under the Eco-Task Force’s activities and services.
SIGNIFICANCE AND CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF JUDGEMENT:
Like industrialization, almost everything has both beneficial and negative consequences. As stated in the principle of Sustainable Development, I think there always should be a balance between both, progress and deterioration. In its decision, the Supreme Court used the concept of sustainable development by creating employment opportunities for the jobless workers as well as shutting down mining activities in environmentally hazardous regions. As a result, in my opinion, the judgement is completely warranted in its own right.
The right to a healthy environment is protected as a basic right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Advancement leads to industrialization, which leads to environmental deterioration. The concept of acceptable improvement has come up as a way to continue this discussion. i.e., there should be a balance between progress and environmental protection. On the stake of public attention, ordinary humiliation is not pushed. Administrative and decisive processes for putting things straight normal and developmental features should be developed, as shown by the country’s cash related requirements.
Courts play an important role in defining the scope of powers and sections of final agreements, as well as whether the environment and development are compatible. The most important thing is to find a common ground amongst the two, i.e., progress on one side and a tainted-free atmosphere on the other.
A cycle in which progress may be sustained endlessly by focusing on the potential of a man’s existence while also living in peace with environment and deferring the post-trial phase of life-sustaining eco-structures. Its typical neighbourhood consists of the synchronisation of developmental and mundane goals. As a result, the only viable solution is acceptable progress, and persuasive exercises should be pursued to that end.
1985 AIR 65 1985 SCR (3) 169
THE FOREST (CONSERVATION) ACT, 1980, Central Act No. 69, Acts of Parliament, 1980.
This article has been written by Anshita Jain, from NMIMS School of Law.