Nov 17, 2021 21:07 UTC
Nov 17, 2021 at 21:20 UTC
Case Study: Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v State of Uttar Pradesh
“Doctrine of Sustainable Development”
“Every technicality in the procedural law is not available as a defense when a matter of grave public importance is for consideration before the Court.”
Citation: 1989 Supl. (1) SCC 504
Date of Judgement: 30 August 1988
Bench: Ranganath Misra and M.M Dutt, JJ.
Background to the case
The case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v State of Uttar Pradesh is synonymous to environmental law in India as this was the first of its kind where the Supreme Court applied the Doctrine of Sustainable development, for the first time, while trying to strike a balance between industrialization for economic development and environment conservation.
“This environmental disturbance has however to be weighed in the balance against the need of lime stone quarrying for industrial purposes in the country and we have taken this aspect into account while making this order.”
The case is also popularly known as ‘The Doon Valley Case’ or ‘The Dehradun Valley litigation’, a six-year long litigation where four orders and two judgments were passed by the Supreme Court starting with the first order passed on 12th March 1985 and the final judgement passed in 1988. It also led to the passing of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
It all started when Rural Litigation and Environment Kendra, a non-governmental organization located in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, wrote a letter to the Supreme Court on 2nd July 1983. The letter contained allegations of illegal mining operations against lessees of lime stone quarries located in Mussoorie-Dehradun region creating environmental and ecological imbalances in the region such as landslides, cave-ins, slumping, loss of vegetation, deforestation etc. On 14th July 1983, the letter received from the Kendra was directed by the Court to be registered as a writ petition.
The first order was passed in March 1985, where the Court ordered the closing down of some quarries permanently and the rest were still allowed to run subject to stringent rules and conditions. The order was based on the reports forwarded by the Bhargav Committee (appointed by the Court on 11th August 1983) and The Working Group (an expert committee set up by the Union to inspect the mines). An another committee was set up by the Court named ‘Bandyopadhyay Committee’ to examine whether a particular limestone quarry can be allowed to operate or not, keeping in mind the relevant statutes, rules and regulations.
The Second order was passed in May 1985 which dealt with the several applications filed by the lessees regarding the limestone quarries forming the subject matter of their respective leases.
Then came the first Judgement in the year 1986. The judgement emphasized upon the importance of the Doon Valley region from the environmental perspective and how the government should adopt the policies that maintain a balance between industrial development and environmental concerns.
Another order was passed on 19th October 1987. The Court decided to relook the matter of Category A (as mentioned in Bhargav Committee report) limestone quarries which were out of the city limits but still closer to the heart of the city. The Court took consideration of the fact that the quality of the limestone extracted from this area had above 97% purity. Moreover, due to the closure of the mining activities the import of the limestone was increased and so the Country had to pay for the same in foreign currency. The mining activities also involved the economic and defense interests of the country.
“At the same time, it would be difficult to overlook the economic and defense interests of the country. There is material on record that for production of sophisticated defense armaments it is necessary to utilize this high grade limestone. As we have pointed out, the question of foreign exchange is also involved…..While we reiterate our conclusion that mining in this area has to be stopped as far as practicable, we also make it clear that mining activity has to be permitted to the extent it is necessary in the interests of the defense of the country as also for the safeguarding of the foreign exchange position.”  Several other orders were passed by the Court after the 1985 order. Overall, four reportable orders were passed by the Court before passing the final judgement.
During the pendency of the writ petitions, the Environment (Protection Act), 1986 came into force on 19th November 1986, and it was contended that since the Act deals with such situations as in the present case so the Court should stop looking into the matter and leave it to the authorities.
The final judgement was passed on August 30 1988.
- A letter was received from the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun, bearing the date July 2, 1983, in which allegations of unauthorized and illegal mining in the Mussoorie- Dehradun belt were made, which adversely affected the ecology of the area and led to environment disorder. It was registered as a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. Later, another application with similar allegations was directed to be tagged with the earlier one.
- On August 11, 1983, the Court appointed Bhargava Committee for inspection of the mines with a view to securing assistance in the determination as to whether safety standards laid down in the Mines Act of 1952 and the Rules made thereunder have been followed and whether there was any danger of landslides or any other hazard to any individual, cattle or agricultural lands on account of carrying of the mining operations.
- The committee classified the mines which it inspected into three groups, being A, B and C and suggested that C Group mines should be totally stopped; in the A Group mines, quarrying could be carried on after ensuring that there was no ecological or environmental hazard; and the B Group mines may not be closed down permanently but the matter should be probed further.
- Thus, Category C lime stone quarries were directed to be closed down permanently by the Bhargava Committee on the grounds of deficiencies regarding safety and hazardous impact on environment.
- Earlier an Expert Committee known as the Working Group had also been set up by the Union Government and they submitted their report in September 1983 where they reviewed the leases for continuance or discontinuance of the mining operations. The Group inspected the mines and classified them into two categories being I and II. They put those mines which, according to them, were suitable for continuing operation under Category I and the mines which were unsuitable for further mining under Category II.
- Category I of Working Group report and Category A of Bhargava Committee report had almost the same lime stone quarries. “So far as the lime stone quarries in category C of the Bhargav Committee Report are concerned, they were regarded by both the Bhargav Committee and the Working Group as unsuitable for continuance of mining operations and both were of the view that they should be closed down. The only difference between the Bhargav Committee and the Working Group was in regard to lime stone quarries classified in category B.”
- Regarding B Category quarries, the Bhargava Committee did not straight away order to close them but observed that the adverse impacts on environment were more pronounced whereas Working Group contended that B Category mines are not suitable for further mining.
The 1985 Order 1985 (2) SCC 431
- In 1985, the first order was passed where Court affirmed the decision of the Bhargava committee to stop the operation of the C Category lime stone quarries and ordered that if the lessees of such quarries have obtained any stay order from any court permitting them to continue the mining operations, such stay order will stand dissolved and any subsisting leases in respect of any of these quarries shall stand terminated without any liability against the State of Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, any pending suits or writ petitions for continuance of expired or unexpired leases in respect of any of these quarries will stand dismissed.
- The A Category lime stone quarries in the Bhargava Committee report which also fell under category I of the Working Group report were further divided by the Court into two classes – 1) class one consisting of those quarries which are within the city limits of Mussoorie and 2) the other class consisted of those which were outside the city limits.
- Regarding the A Category lime stone quarries falling outside the city limits, the Court held that they should be allowed to be operated if they comply with the Mines Act 1952, the Metalliferous Mines Regulations, 1961 and other relevant statutes, rules and regulations but the expired leases of any such quarries will not be automatically renewed.
- The Court directed closure of the C category mines and certain B category mines (located in Sahasradhara Block) on permanent basis. The rest of the B category mines and A category mines were directed to submit their schemes to the Bandyopadhyay Committee (set up by the Court) and the committee was to examine whether the certain limestone quarry can be allowed to be operated or not and under what conditions such operation can be allowed and till then the mining activities in all the mines under examination were stopped.
- The lessees of the quarries which were closed down under the directions of the Bhargav Committee, were allowed to carry out the removal of the minerals already mined, lying at the sites of their respective lime stone quarries.
The 1986 Judgement
- In the 1986 judgement, while stating the significance of Mussoorie region from the environment’s perspective, the Court stated “The limestone belt has acted as the acquifer – to hold and release water perennially. The perennial water streams and the fertile soil have contributed not only to the growth of dense lush green forests but have helped the yield of basmati rice and leechis. Mussoorie known as the queen of Indian hill stations situated at a height of 5000 ft above sea level and Dehradun located below the heights have turned out to be important places of tourist attraction, centres of education, research and defense complex. At present the valley is in danger because of erratic, irrational and uncontrolled quarrying of limestone.”
- Court affirmed the fact that mining operations have had highly negative impacts on environment of Mussoorie and Dehradun region but it cannot be denied that the limestone deposits in this area are of very high grade which is used to manufacture a special kind of steel.
- It was held that it is for the government and not for the Court to decide whether the deposits should be exploited at the cost of ecology and environmental considerations or the industrial requirements should be otherwise satisfied.
- No schemes submitted by several mining lessees to the Bandyopadhyay Committee were cleared. Only category A mines located outside the city limits were allowed by the Court to operate.
- Legal issue – The legal issue that was dealt with in the judgment was whether the schemes submitted by the mine lessees to the Bandyopadhyay Committee under the order of 1985 have been rightly rejected or not and whether under those schemes, mine lessees can be allowed mining operations without adversely affecting environment or causing hazard to individual, cattle and agricultural lands.
- The Court held, based on the report submitted by the Bandopadhyay Committee, that the mining operations have had direct environmental impact on the area – “Reckless mining, careless disposal of the mine-debris and random blasting operations have disturbed the natural water system and the supply of water both for drinking and irrigation has substantially gone down……Mining operations in these areas have led to cutting down of the forest……Blasting has disturbed the natural quiet, has shaken the soil, loosened the rocky structures and disturbed the entire ecology of the area.” -Para 14, 15 and 16 of the Judgement.
The Final Judgement (1988)
Finally, the petition was decided on August 30 1988.
The legal issue dealt with by the Court specifically in this judgement was whether the Court can direct differently than what Court directed in the 1985 order or is it open for the Court to direct differently in the same proceedings at a later stage? as the A category mines outside the city limits of Mussoorie were also brought under scrutiny by the Court which were earlier exempted under the 1985 order. Moreover, during the pendency of the writ petitions, the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 was passed which provides detailed procedure to deal with the situation arising in the case. So in such case, can the Court still deal with the matter? The Court held that every technicality in the procedural law cannot be availed as defense when matter of grave public importance is being considered by the Court. Had this not been a PIL, then the approach of the Court might have been otherwise.
Key Legal positions established
- The first legal question to be decided by the Court was whether for social safety and for creating the hazardless environment for people to live in, mining in the area should be permitted or stopped?
The mining should be stopped.
The Court held that “We are of the view that stone quarrying in the Doon Valley area should generally be stopped and reasons thereof we shall provide in due course. At the same time it would be difficult to overlook the economic and defense interest of the country. There is material on record that for production of sophisticated defense armaments it is necessary to utilize this high grade lime stone. As we have already pointed out, the question of foreign exchange is also involved.”
“While we reiterate our conclusion that mining in this area has to be stopped as far as practicable, we also make it clear that mining activity has to be permitted to the extent it is necessary in the interests of the defense of the country as also for the safeguarding of the foreign exchange position.”
2. Another issue that arose was whether the Court has jurisdiction to deal with the case after The Environment (Protection) Act 1986 came into force on 19th November 1986?
Yes, the Court has jurisdiction to deal with the case even after coming into force of The Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
The Court held that the Act could not take away the jurisdiction of this court to deal with this type of case. “Undoubtedly, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986) has come into force with effect from 19th November, 1986. Under this Act power is vested in the Central Government to take measures to protect and improve the environment. These writ petitions were filed as early as 1983-more than three years before the Act came into force. This Court appointed several expert Committees, received their reports and on the basis of materials placed before it, made directions, partly final and partly interlocutory, in regard to certain mines in the area. Several directions from time to time have been made by this Court. As many as four reportable orders have been given. The several parties and their counsel have been heard for days together on different issues during the three and a quarter year of the pendency of the proceedings…….. Ordinarily the Court would not entertain a dispute for the adjudication of which a special provision has been made by law but that rule is not attracted in the present situation in these cases. Besides it is a rule of practice and prudence and not one of jurisdiction. The contention against exercise of jurisdiction advanced by Mr. Nariman for the intervener and reiterated by some of the lessees before this Court must stand overruled.”
“The writ petitions before us are not inter-party disputes and have been raised by way of public interest litigation…….”
3. Whether the mining should be totally stopped outright or in a phased manner?
Held, the mining should be stopped in a phased manner.
“…we were of the view that mining activity may have to be permitted to the extent it was necessary in the interest of defense of the country as also by way of the safe-guarding of the foreign exchange position.”
4. Can Court direct differently in the 1988 judgement than what Court directed in the 1985 order or is it open for the Court to direct differently in the same proceedings at a later stage?
Yes, the Court can direct differently than what it directed in an earlier order as the present case arose by way of public interest litigation and it is not an inter-partes dispute.
The Court in the Final judgement held that the mining operations in the Doon Valley had disturbed the environmental peace and tranquility of the valley. Deforestation led to disrupted rain cycle and the mining activities lead to loss of aquifers. The Court dealt with Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and held that the Act does not permit mining in the forest area and if mining is permitted, even to a limited extent, would cause harm to the environment of the valley. Thus, the Court held that the mining in the valley should be completely stopped but only after the original leases of the working mines are over.
The Court discussed the history of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and how it evolved after 1927. Ambica quarry works v state of Gujaratwas cited as the case discussed the provisions of The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. “It is clear from the directions contained in the order of 12th March, 1985, as also the ratio of the judgment in the Ambica Quarry Works case (supra) that even if there has been an order of the Court and no challenge is raised against such order this Court could invoke its jurisdiction to nullify the direction or order and if any order, direction or decree has been passed ignoring the provisions of the Conservation Act of 1980 the same would not be binding.”
The Court held that the issues of environment and ecological balance are of great importance and the conflict between development and conservation needs to be reconciled for the larger interest of the country. By the interim order passed in 1985, the mining operations carried out by blasting were stopped by the Court. The approach of sustainability was adopted by the Court as it ordered that the workmen employed in the limestone quarries, which had been directed to be closed permanently, after consideration of the Bandyopadhyay committee report, or temporarily, to be provided employment in the afforestation and soil conservation program to be taken up so that the workmen employed in the quarries do not lose their livelihood. Moreover, the Court considered the situation of the lessees of the limestone quarries which had been directed to be closed. The Court contended that the lessees would be thrown out of business in which they have invested large sums of money, time and effort causing hardship to them. So in the First Order(passed in 1985), the Court directed the Union and the State government “…….that whenever any other area in the State of Uttar Pradesh is thrown open for grant of lime stone or dolomite quarrying, the lessees who are displaced as a result of this order shall be afforded priority in grant of lease of such area and intimation that such area is available for grant of lease shall be given to the lessees who are displaced so that they can apply for grant of lease of such area and on the basis of such application, priority may be given to them subject, of course, to their otherwise being found fit and eligible.”
Court also took into consideration the fact that extraction of limestone and the mining activities are necessary for the economical and the defense purposes of the country.
 1989 Supp (1) SCC 504
 Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, (1985) 2 SCC 431, para 6
 1987 Supp (1) SCC 487
 (1985) 3 SCC 614, 1986 Supp SCC 517, 1987 Supp SCC 487, 1989 Supp (1) SCC 537
 Final Judgement – 1989 Supp (1) SCC 504
 (1985) 2 SCC 431, para 4
 1987 Supp SCC 487, para 8
 Id, para 9
 Supra note 5, para 17
 Supra note 5, para 16
 Supra note 5, para 39
 (1987) 1 SCC 213
 Supra note 5, para 37
 Supra note 6, para 12