Bombay High Court tells Maharashtra government to list down steps to formulate policy to protect rivers

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday held that it is the constitutional obligation of the Maharashtra government to protect its rivers. The court has accordingly directed the state government to file a detailed affidavit spelling out steps it proposes to take to formulate a comprehensive policy to protect its rivers.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla said it is the fundamental right of the citizens to have a pollution-free environment, including clean rivers. “The constitution itself says that it is the fundamental right of the citizens to have a pollution-free environment, which also includes rivers. We accordingly believe that it is the constitutional obligation of the government to ensure its rivers are clean and are protected,” Justice Oka observed.

The observation was made while hearing a PIL filed by NGO Vanshakti which had sought directions on a river policy. The NGO even cited a notification issued in 2009 wherein the government had decided to protect its rivers. “However, the said notification was modified allowing construction of hotels, lodgings, resorts, etcetera on the river beds. In 2015, a study had revealed that nearly 49 rivers in the State are badly polluted,” the counsel for Vanshakti informed the judges.


During the hearing, the judges also perused a 2015 order wherein the government was directed to formulate a comprehensive policy to protect all the rivers across Maharashtra. “…Construction of structures near river beds poses a danger of effluent-related diseases. We have noted that despite orders of this court, the government has failed to inform whether it proposes to formulate such a policy or not,” Justice Oka said.

“Given such an approach, we assume that the government does not intend to form any policy. We would like to clarify that if the government does not intend to do so, then this court has the powers to intervene and issue directions to the government to fulfil its constitutional duty,” Justice Oka added. Accordingly, the judges directed the government to file a detailed affidavit spelling out its stand on June 22, the day when the matter would next be heard.




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