Ganga and Yamuna are juristic/legal persons/living entities

Uttarakhand High Court

Uttaranchal High Court: Pronouncing a landmark decision in the instant case wherein it was noticed that despite the decision of this Court dated 05.12.2016, the States of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have not cooperated with the Central Government to constitute a Ganga Management Board, the Court, in exercise of its parens patriae jurisdiction, in order to preserve and conserve river Ganga and Yamuna, declared the Rivers, and all their tributaries, streams, every natural water flowing with continuous or intermittent flow, as juristic/legal persons/living entities, having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person read with Articles 48-A and 51-A(g) of the Constitution. The Director NAMAMI Gange, the Chief Secretary of the State of Uttarakhand and the Advocate General of the State of Uttarakhand were declared as persons in loco parentis i.e. the human face bound to protect, conserve, preserve, uphold the status and promote the health and well being of Ganga and Yamuna. The Court made it clear that, “Rivers Ganga and Yamuna are breathing, living and sustaining the communities from mountains to sea”.

Expressing deep concern over the deteriorating state of Ganga and Yamuna and extreme displeasure over the callous attitude displayed by the State Governments in showing non-cooperation with the Central Government, the Division Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Alok Singh, JJ., sharply berated the States terming their non-cooperation as a ‘sign of non-governance’ especially when they are constitutionally bound to obey the orders passed by the Central Government or face consequences as enshrined under Article 365, and directed them to cooperate with the Central Government in an earnest manner for the constitution of Ganga Management Board by appointing the Members, failing which it shall be open to the Central Government to constitute the Ganga Management Board without the Members of the States.

Pointing out that deterioration of Ganga and Yamuna is a classic case of ‘desperate times, desperate measures’, the Court observed that the Rivers have a profound significance in the lives of devout Hindus, whence they are worshipped and revered as Mother; the one who purifies people of their sins. Backing its decision to grant legal personality to Ganga and Yamuna, the Court cited the cases of Yogendra Nath Naskar v. Commission of Income Tax, (1969) 1 SCC 555 and Ram Jankijee Deities v. State of Bihar, (1999) 5 SCC 50 wherein it was held that a Hindu idol is a juristic entity capable of holding property, thereby stating that to protect the recognition and the faith of society, Rivers Ganga and Yamuna are required to be declared as legal persons/living persons. Examining that how Hindus have deep faith in the Rivers and how the Rivers are very central to the material and spiritual existence of half of Indian population and their health and well being, the Court noted that the constitution of Ganga Management Board has become all the more necessary for the purpose of irrigation, rural and urban water supply, hydro power generation, navigation, industries. [Mohd. Salim v. State of Uttarakhand, 2017 SCC OnLine Utt 367, decided on 20.03.2017]


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