SC stay on 'living' Ganga

The Supreme Court today stayed an Uttarakhand High Court judgment that had declared the Ganga, the Yamuna and their tributaries as "living entities" to ensure their conservation.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 8.07.17
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New Delhi, July 7: The Supreme Court today stayed an Uttarakhand High Court judgment that had declared the Ganga, the Yamuna and their tributaries as "living entities" to ensure their conservation.

A bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud clamped the stay on an appeal by the state government, which said the directive passed in March this year was constitutionally impractical, would lead to legal complications and open a flood of litigation.

The order had also designated the state chief secretary and advocate-general as " loco parentis" - someone who stands in the place of a parent - to "protect, conserve and preserve" the ancient rivers and their tributaries.

According to the government, national rivers like the Ganga and Yamuna passed through various other states, came under the control of the Union government and the hill state would face innumerable cases as the families of those who die in the rivers or their tributaries could sue it for compensation.

The high court had passed the order on a PIL seeking removal of encroachments on the two riverbeds.

Staying the order today, the apex court sought the responses of the Centre and the petitioners on the issue within four weeks.

According to the Uttarakhand government, the high court verdict would lead to a situation in which the state chief secretary would have to pass orders against other states to protect the rivers , something impermissible under the Constitution. Besides, in the event of flood-related deaths, the state would have to "pay damages to any person filing a compensation suit against the rivers" as they were deemed "living entities".

"The Ganga and the Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams, every natural water flowing continuously or intermittently of these rivers, are declared as juristic/legal persons/living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person to preserve and conserve (them)," the high court had observed while passing the order.

"All Hindus have deep astha (faith) in the Ganga and the Yamuna and they collectively connect with these rivers. The rivers are central to the existence of half of the Indian population and their health and well-being. The rivers have provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to all of us from time immemorial."

The high court had said the rivers "have spiritual and physical sustenance". "They support and assist both the life and natural resources and health and well-being of the entire community. The Ganga and the Yamuna are breathing, living and sustaining the communities from the mountains to the sea."