M.C. Mehta vs Union of India: Ganga Pollution Case



In this particular case, in 1985, the petitioner M.C. Mehta filed a writ petition of the nature mandamus in order to prevent leather tanneries in Kanpur from disposing the industry waste and toxic effluents into the river Ganga as the river was getting highly polluted due to these toxic wastes.

The trial of the case began in 1987, where the petitioner, in the petition, requested the Supreme Court to restrain the respondents from disposing off waste into the river Ganga till the time they incorporate a proper treatment plant to treat the toxic waste materials in order to curb water pollution. The court had issued a direction under Order I rule 8 of the CPC and called upon all the industrialists, municipality corporation and councils to appear to the court and issue a show cause as to why should such directions should not be issued to them.

The Supreme Court highlighted the articles of the constitution which mention about the importance and the need to protect the environment. It stated that article 48 A spoke about the state’s responsibilities to protect the environment and to safeguard the environment and to protect the wildlife of the country and article 51-A which states that every citizen has the fundamental duty of protecting the environment.  It also emphasized on the Water( Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1974 which stated about maintain water quality and prevent water pollution. This act established the central and state boards and gave them the necessary powers to act in the interest of the environment. The court also took up this case against the Kanpur Nagar Mahapalika as they were not obliging to their duties as mentioned in the various sections and clause of the Uttar Pradesh Nagar Mahapalika Adhiniyam, 1959. The duties of the the authorities and the mahapalika are mentioned in the chapter 5 of the Adhiniyam which enable them to make necessary measures to protect the environment and it’s natural habitat.

Although the parliament and state legislatures have made laws regarding the protection of the environment and preventing water pollution yet there was no action regarding the same.

Every day a lot of sewage is discharged in the river Ganga polluting the river to a very great extent due to which it was rendered as unfit for fishing, swimming or any such activity of that sought. The respondents stated that before getting discharged the waste first lead to a sewage which further lead to the municipal sewage and then discharged into the water. They also argued that it would not be possible for to establish secondary treatment plants as that would be expensive.


The court considered all the facts and gave the judgment in 1988. The court in this case, stated that petitioner was someone who was interested in protecting the people who were using the water and he could file a petition to enforce statutory provisions against the mahapalika and other officials involved. The court indicated that several water borne diseases that could result due to the polluted water and how it is very harmful for the common man. On the issue of whose responsibility was it, the court held that the industries were responsible to make sure that their waste is treated properly and then discharged. The court further said that an industry should be given a license only if they can demonstrate an adequate way of treating the waste. The existing industries if, found responsible for water pollution then strict action must be taken against them. The court also ordered the tanneries to establish a primary treatment plant if not a secondary one.

The court also held the mahapalika responsible for not obliging to their duties and not taking any steps for prevention of water pollution. It issued directions to the mahapalika to take immediate actions for the same.

The court also asked the central government to issue books free of cost in order to increase the knowledge regarding the environment of the general public. It also said that this judgement would be applicable to all the Mahapalikas which have a jurisdiction over the river Ganga.

Author: Vaishnavi Menon,
MIT WPU School of Law, 1st year

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