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Vellore Citizens Forum, Petitioner v. Union of India and others, Respondents

Type of court
National - higher court
Aug 28, 1996
Court name
Supreme Court of India
Singh, K.
Uddin, F.
Venkataswami, K.
Reference number
Writ Petition (C) No. 914 of 1991
Waste & hazardous substances, Land & soil, Agricultural & rural development, Water
Hazardous substances Polluter pays principle Agricultural land Water supply Effluent waste water/discharge Precautionary principle Public land Potable water Liability/compensation
This was a petition against pollution which was caused by the discharge of untreated effluent by tanneries and other industries into agricultural fields, road sides, waterways and open lands, and into the river Palar which is the source of water supply to the residents of the area. According to the petitioner the entire surface and sub-soil water of river Palar had been polluted resulting in non availability of potable water to the residents of the area. It was stated that the tanneries in question had caused environmental degradation in the area. According to the preliminary survey nearly 35,000 hectares of agricultural land in the Tanneries Belt, had become either partially or totally unfit for cultivation. There was evidence that the tanneries and other industries had been exhorted for ten years to control pollution but to no avail. The court ordered the central Government to constitute an authority and confer on it all powers necessary to deal with the situation. The authority was to implement the precautionary principle and the “polluter pays” principle. It would also identify the families who had suffered from the pollution and access compensation and the amount to be paid by the polluters to reverse the ecological damage. The court required the Madras High Court to monitor the implementation of its orders through a special bench to be constituted and called a “Green Bench”.
Full text
Available in
UNEP/UNDP/Dutch Government Joint Project on Environmental Law in Africa, Compendium of Judicial Decisions on Matters related to Environment, National Decisions, Volume III, Page 190


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