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Delhi Ridge Case: M.C Mehta V. Union Of India

CASE TITLE: M.C Mehta V. UNION OF INDIA

CITATION: AIR 2004 SC 4016

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 18TH MARCH 2004

BENCH: Y.K. SABHARWAL & H.K. SEMA



INTRODUCTION:

Encroachment of the Ridge was put on the judicial agenda in a case which was filed by environmental lawyer MC Mehta in the year of 1985 was not defined as a Reserved Forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. All the encroachment on its violation of the Indian forest Act provisions would be illegal irrespective of the government formation of the record here. It shows that 796 hectares of Northern and Central Ridge were democratic as Reserved Forest in 1913 and during 1985, A notification under the Indian Forest Act 20 sites in the Northern, Central and South Central Ridge were marketed as a protected forest. To apply the plea, all provisions relating to the Reserved Forest to the Ridge.


FACTS OF THE CASE:

It is a case where the mining activity in an area up to 5 kilometres from the Delhi-Haryana border on the Haryana side of the ridge and also in the Aravalli hills which caused environmental degradation and the directions were made required to be issued.


ISSUES:

  • Whether the mining activity in the area of up to 5 kilometres from the Delhi-Haryana border on the Haryana side of the ridge and the Aravali Hills caused Environment Degradation?

  • Whether the mining activity deserves to be absolutely banned or permitted in compliance with stringent conditions and by monitoring it to prevent environmental pollution?


PROVISIONS:

  • Section 18 of The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act.

  • Rules 31 to 41 in Chapter V of the Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988.


JUDGEMENT:

Therefore the court held that the mining operations are hazardous to nature and they relied on the T N Godavarman case to know that a balance has to be struck between development and environmental protection. The court relied on principle 15 of Rio conference of 1992 relating to the applicability of precautionary principle which stipulates that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for proposing the effective measures as to prevent the environmental degradation which is also required to be kept in view. The precautionary principle requires the anticipatory action to be taken to prevent harm. The harm can be prevented even on reasonable suspicion. It is not always necessary that there should be direct evidence of harm to the environment.


The court also held that these rules should have strictly complied with the protection of the environment. In a report, prepared by the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDI). The Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited were asked by the Central Pollution Control Board to conduct a study of environmental problems of Aravali Hills. The CMPDI recommended that the state government should improve the inter-departmental coordination among various government departments to achieve a common goal as ecological restoration of areas affected by these mining operations. It should be a master plant which indicates the proposed eco-restoration plan to compensate for environmental degradation.

No objection was raised to the recommendations of CMPDI and these were accepted by the supreme court in principle.


ANALYSIS:

  • The mining activity can be permitted only on the basis of sustainable development and on compliance of stringent conditions.

  • The Aravali Hill range has to be protected at any cost, which in case of these terms and conditions, and adverse irreversible effect on the ecology in the Aravali Hill range area, at a later date, would be the total stoppage of mining activity in the area has to be considered. For similar reasons any step which may have to be considered in respect of mining in the Faridabad district as well.

  • Violation of any of the conditions would curtail the risk of cancellation of mining lease and the mining activities shall also continue only on strict compliance of the stipulated conditions.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Ban on the mining activities and pumping of groundwater in and from an area up to 5 km. from the Delhi-Haryana border

  • All efforts must be made to ensure that the local economy is rejuvenated, with the use of plantations and local water harvesting based opportunities.

  • The Central Ground Water Board must be consulted urgently about what should be done with the huge standing water in the area.

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) should be asked to extend the notification under the Environment (Protection) Act to the Faridabad part of the Aravalli and ridge as well.

  • The mining area outside the 5 km area must be demarcated and regulated.

  • Constant monitoring of the area must be done by a Central Government agency. The environment management plan (EMP) for the mining area, as well as the conditions of the NOC, should be made a public document.


CONCLUSION :

Few measures are required to be taken by the lessee for the protection of the environment from any adverse effect of Mining or irreversible consequences. Therefore, it was held that a mining leaseholder is not only required to comply with MMDR Act but others Statutory provisions as well as Environment (Protection) Act 1986, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, Forest Conservation Act 1980.


The approval of the mining plan by the Government of India, Ministry of Mines will not absolve the leaseholder from complying with the other provisions under the environmental laws.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vijayalakshmi Raju, Final year law student BA LL.B (Honours) from Dr Ambedkar Global Law Institute Tirupati, A.P (India).

You can contact them at https://www.linkedin.com/in/vijayalakshmi-raju-bb03b7170

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