Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of Mohammed Rafiq and B. R. Sarangi, JJ., disposed off the writ petition holding that equity has to be maintained between industrialization and eco-system itself.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner-club New Light Yubak Sangha, registered under the Cooperative Society Act was established for the purpose of development of the poor, unemployed and downtrodden persons as well as the welfare and social public works of village Sodamal and its nearby area and also put grievance before the authority for their fundamental rights of enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of their life as well as other inhabitants of the locality. In 2011 and 2015, Tahasildar, Kolabira issued a public notice that the land in question would be handed over to IDCO, Bhubaneswar for the establishment of industry on a permanent lease basis as it is government land which was opposed by the local people especially scheduled caste and scheduled which was thereby cancelled. But, again in the year 2019, a notification has been issued stating that the land is jungle kisam, would be handed over to IDCO on a lease basis so that IDCO would hand over the same to opposite party 8 for setting up of the industry by allotting the area measuring Ac. 8.00 decimals for the project. The District Level Single Window Clearance Committee without giving the opportunity of hearing to the local villagers approved the application of opposite party 8 for allotment of forest land in which newly planted valuable trees are growing. Aggrieved by the same, instant writ petition has been filed seeking direction to the opposite parties to cause an inquiry on the basis of the grievance made by the villagers of Sodamal and further seeks to cancel the notification.

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the area having been located in the district of Jharsuguda wherein full-grown forest has been undergone with the help of local people, it helps the people to get free air and water. In the event the industry of opposite party 8 is established, it will destroy the eco-system and people will be deprived of getting free air and water, which will affect their right to live with dignity enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court observed that “steps taken by opposite party 8 at the cost of local people is serious one, thereby as has been stated earlier if the lease was allotted in the year 2011 and 2015 and the said proposal was cancelled, subsequently there was no valid justifiable reason to set up the industry by opposite party no.8 in the said land by destroying the eco-system without hearing the grievance of the local people. No doubt, industrialization is required for enhancement of revenue, but that does not mean at the cost of the lives of human being by destroying eco-system. Thereby, equity has to be maintained between industrialization and eco-system itself. Unless there is equilibrium between the two systems, ultimate result will be devastated.”

The Court directed  opposite party 2 “to pass a reasoned and speaking order by affording opportunity of hearing the petitioner vis-à-vis opposite party 8 and other affected persons, if any, as expeditiously as possible preferably within a period of three months from the date of production of this order.”

In view of the above, writ petition was disposed off.[New Light Yubak Sangha v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 931, decided on 18-12-2020]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission: The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that massive deforestation in Aravali Hills for business interests in the States of Rajasthan and Haryana is the root cause behind the increasing dust storms and air pollution in Delhi-NCR region during the past several days creating health concerns. Reportedly, the open forest cover in the Aravali Hills has decreased in the last three decades while the scrub has increased by 5.7 per cent making it almost barren without any moisture in the air.

The Commission has observed that the gravity of the issue demands proactive and effective measures by the authorities concerned to stop deforestation and degradation of Aravali Hills. Heavy vegetation can prevent the situation from further deterioration and create a green barrier against the sand storm. The citizens and the public authorities have to become more sensitive towards protecting the eco system around the mountains, which have continued to protect them.

Accordingly, in order to know the steps being taken or proposed to be taken by them in this regard, the Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretaries of the Governments of Rajasthan and Haryana as well as the Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change seeking their response in the matter within six weeks.

Reportedly, according to the experts, if the degradation of Aravali Hills, which acted as a green cover to check the extent of the desert from Western Rajasthan to Eastern parts, may cause its advancement and increased intensity of dust storms, which will affect the health of the people due to air pollution. The media reports have quoted the findings of studies conducted by the Wild Life Institute of India and the Amity School of Earth and Environmental Sciences as well as several other experts in this regard.

According to them, the Aravali range, extending over 690 km from Palampur in Gujarat to Delhi through Rajasthan and Haryana, has stood strong against the advancement of the Thar desert for more than three billion years. If its degradation is not checked, the day is not far when its desertification will badly affect a host of eco system services including rain, ground water level, checking temperature, trapping of dust and pollutants, habitat for hundreds of flora and fauna.

National Human Rights Commission