CASE COMMENT ON MC MEHTA VS UOI
This case has played a vital role in framing rather guiding the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; it deals with the functioning of factories and other enterprises dealing with hazardous resources or materials.
M.C Mehta, a social activist lawyer, filed a writ suit seeking the closure of Shriram Industries, which was involved in the manufacture of hazardous substances and was located in a highly populated area of Kirti Nagar, Delhi. While the petition was pending, a leak of oleum gas from one of its units occurred on December 4, 1985, killing one advocate and affecting the health of numerous others. A number of mechanical and human mistakes led to the leaking.
This leak was caused by the rupture of an oleum gas tank as a result of the collapse of the structure on which it was mounted, and it caused panic among the residents of the region. After the population had hardly recovered from the shock of the calamity, another leak occurred within two days, this time a minor one caused by oleum gas escaping from pipe joints. M.CMehta filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) under Articles 21 and 32 of the Constitution, seeking the closure and relocation of the Shriram Caustic Chlorine and Sulphuric Acid Plant, which was located in a densely populated area of Delhi, as well as compensation for those who were harmed or died.
The Court stated that in addition to giving directives, it has the authority to create new remedies and methods to enforce basic rights under Article 32. Article 32's power extends not just to preventative steps when fundamental rights are threatened, but also to corrective measures when rights have already been violated. However, the Court stated that it has the authority to offer remedial remedies in relevant circumstances where a violation of fundamental rights is flagrant and obvious, affects a significant number of people, or affects impoverished and backward people.
However, the Court stated that a petition under Article 32 should not be used to replace the ability to seek compensation for breach of a fundamental right through the normal Civil Court process. Compensation may be paid in a petition under Article 32 only in rare circumstances. The Court opted not to rule on whether Article 21 is available to Shriram Industries because it thought that this subject required more time and detail debate, and that due to a lack of time, it would be better if the question was left unresolved.
The ruling established in Rylands vs. Fletcher was that if a person brings on to his land and collects and retains anything apt to do harm, and such thing escapes and causes harm to another, he is obliged to recompense for the damage caused. As a result, the fact that the thing fled without the person's purposeful conduct, default, or neglect is no defence. This regulation does not apply to items that occur naturally on the land, or when the escape is caused by an act of God, a stranger, or the person injured's default, or where there is a statutory authority.
As previously said, this case influenced the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 because it revealed numerous difficulties that highlighted the inadequacy of regulating mechanisms in such circumstances as well as the lack of appropriate legislation to prevent such activities. One of the most important decisions made in this case was the scope of Article 32, which said that the Article is available not just to offer redress when a fundamental right has been abridged or violated, but also when there is a reasonable fear that such abridgment or violation may occur. Apart from one remaining question, I believe the verdict was rendered in accordance with the laws and norms of fairness, equity, and good conscience.
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