Now-a-days, people have become a lot more environmental conscious than they were before. The increasingly destruction of the environment urged several international bodies, organisations, conference to develop concepts like ‘Sustainable development ‘, ‘polluter pays principle’, ‘precautionary principle’, ‘Public trust doctrine’ etc. In Indian Constitution Article 48A stipulates: The state strives to protect and improve environment and secure the country’s forest and wild animals. The Ministry of Environment was established in India in 1980 to ensure a healthy environment in the country. Later this become the Ministry of Environment. This Article is about the case M.C. Mehta V/S Union of India also known as Taj Trapezium Case.
Taj Mahal is one among the 7 wonders in the world. It is known for his uniqueness, brilliant architecture of concave and convex structures and shadows of light the green pathways, the rich white marble along with the four minerats which give a dimension to the frame. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the loving memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1632 A.D. In Taj Trapezium case a petition was filed regarding the increase in pollution near the Taj Mahal. In this case petition was filed about the increasing pollution around Taj Mahal .
About Taj Trapezium Case
M.C. Mehta the Petitioner of the case is a lawyer by profession and an enthusiastic environmentalists by choice. Mehta is a Supreme Court lawyer who fought against polluting Indian Industries. He is the only lawyer who stood against the environmental pollution. M.C. Mehta visited Taj Mahal in 1984 and noticed that white marble of Taj Mahal turning yellow. To bring this matter in lime light. He filed a petition in Supreme Court.
Facts of the case :-
- The petition was filed regarding the deteriorating condition of the monument. Due to the pollution caused by the nearby industries and factories due to resdential fuel combustion, dieasal trains, and buses, and backup generators, the gases emitted are having harmful effects not on the people only but on the monument also.
- The petitioner said that pollution is the main cause for the yellow colour of the marble. Emission of pollutant gases like sulphur dioxide and oxygen turned into acid rain which is harmful for the environment and monument also. Therefore he asked for the protection of the monument.
- As a result, the Central Board for the Prevention & Control of Water published “Inventory and Assessment of Pollution Emission” in and around Agra-Mathura region. The report declared the pollution levels as high and measures to reduce them.
- In report, one of measures were to shut down the thermal power stations. Another step was to reduce omissions of Sulphur Dioxide by 50%.
Environmental law Principles applied in Taj Trapezium Case:-
- Sustainable development
Sustainable development was first used at Cocoyox Declaration in 1972 and received proper support at the Stockholm Conference. The concept of sustainable development does not deter development, instead it promotes development as long as environment factors and conditions are not sidelined. It ensures a harmonious balance between development. It ensures a harmonious balance between development and protection of the environment. Recently, quite a few global clothing brands have been promoting sustainable clothing, this may be viewed as a great initiative which not only promotes the protection of environment but may also help in actually doing so.
- Precautionary Principle
The Precautionary Principle plays a huge role with respect to the burden of proof. According to this principle where the risk of harming the environment is preceived, the burden of proof would be upon the person who is undertaking the risk that would lead to environmental damage of somekind. He must take responsibility and precautionary measures. This principle was not only applied in the Taj Trapezium Case, but also in Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v Union of India. By adhering to the Precautionary Principle, one can anticipate the environmental harm a prospective project may cause. In A.P. Pollution Control Board v. Prof. M. V. Nayadu, the Apex Court observed that “the principles of precaution involves anticipation of environmental harm and taking measures to avoid it – or to choose the least environmentally harmful activity.”
- Polluter Pays Principle
Polluter Pays Principle is applied after the environmental degradation has taken place. This principle mandates the person who has caused such an adverse environmental damage to pay for their actions. The polluter not only compensates the victims but also pays for the restoration of the environment. Therefore, even where the harm cannot be reversed, through the application of this principle, the polluter is at least made to pay the cost of the damage done by him. This principle creates absolute liability on the polluter.
- The Supreme Court observed that other than Chemicals, Socio-economic factors too influenced the degradation of Taj Mahal.
- By applying the principle of sustainable development, the court realised the necessity of drawing a balance between environmental protection and economic development.
- Furthermore, the court recognized two more important principles known as the Polluter Pays Principle and the Precautionary Principle. In order to repair and prevent further damage, the court advocated that the concept of ‘Sustainable Development’ must be practiced and that the polluter should be held liable to compensate the suffering party/parties and must additionally pay the cost of reversing the damaged ecology. The judgement also relied tremendously upon the various reports that came to light. As the court was extremely persistent upon the prevention of further degradation and destruction, it ordered the neighbouring industries to either shift to natural gas or shut down the operations of such industries and relocate outside the area of TTZ.
- The people living in the Trapezium zone were at the risk due to Air pollution. The court ordered 292 industries to operate using safe fuels like propane instead of coke/coal otherwise they would have to relocate.
- The Gas Authority of India Limited was in charges of application of Gas. The court also gave few fundamental rights to workers of these industries and demanded payment of their wages during the time taken for relocation.
Drawbacks of the Judgment
- The order only addressed 292 industries out of 510 industries that are responsible for the damage. It should have been called upon to take measures as well.
- The direction only asked the Industries who are refusing to switch to the use of natural gas to relocate. In order to eliminate damage due to pollution, it is beyond necessary to take strict action.
- Although the Judgment lays emphasis on coal and coke pollutants, significant emphasis was not laid upon pollution due to brick kilns, bangles and glass factories, pollution caused due to excessive traffic on the roads of Agra.
Now-a-days pollution are increasing rapidly all over the world. Taj Mahal is among the 7 wonders in the world and it is known for his beauty and architecture. This case helped to recognize the environmental damage around Taj Mahal. It helps in taking the initiative to prevent the damage of Monuments. It also helps in taking measures against the pollution.
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ARTICLE BY NAMRATA SINGH