Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v Union of India


Author: Mr. Mudit Saxena, Galgotias University

APPELLANT: Vellore Citizens Welfare Forums

RESPONDENT: Union of India rep. by its Secretary, Department of Environment and Others

BENCH: Justice Kuldip Singh, Justice Faizan Uddin, Justice K. Venkataswami

COURT: Supreme Court

CITATION: AIR 1996 SC 2715: (1996) 5 SCC 647

DECIDED ON: Apr-07-2016

CASE NUMBER: Writ Petition (C) No. 914 Of 1991

Facts of the Case

This case was lately decided by the Apex Court in the year 2016 and entrenched the principle of preventive methodology in environmental protection. The petitioner- Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum, filed a Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The petition was filed against the excessive pollution caused by River Palar due to the release of pollutants by the tanneries and other industries in the State of Tamil Nadu. Palar River is the main source of drinking and bathing water for the surrounding people. Later, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Research Centre, Vellore discovered that approximately 35,000 hectares of agricultural land have turned either entirely or partially unsuitable for cultivation. This is one of the landmark cases whereby the Supreme Court critically analyzed the relationship between environment and industrial development.

Issue Raised

The question which emerged for thought under the steady gaze of the Supreme Court was whether the tanneries ought to be permitted to keep on working at the expense of lives of lakhs of individuals.

Arguments from the side of Petitioner

It was presented by the petitioner that the whole surface and sub-soil water of river Palar has been intoxicated and has resulted in the non-accessibility of consumable water to the inhabitants of the region. It is expressed that the tanneries in the State of Tamil Nadu have caused environmental debasement in the zone. An autonomous study directed by Peace Members, a non-administrative association, covering 13 towns of Dindigal and Peddiar Chatram Anchayat Unions, uncovers that 350 well out of an aggregate of 467 utilized for drinking and water system purposes have been contaminated.

Arguments from the side of Respondent

Learned counsel for the tanneries brought up a criticism that the standard with respect to Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) fixed by the Board was not legitimized. This Court by the request dated April 9, 1996, coordinated the NEERI to inspect this angle and offer its input. In its report dated June 11, 1996, NEERI has legitimized the models stipulated by the Board. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) has not completely set down models for inland surface water release for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), sulfates, and chlorides. The choice on these guidelines rests with the individual State Pollution Control Boards according to the prerequisites based on nearby site conditions. The guidelines stipulated by TNPCB are advocated on afore alluded contemplations. The endorsed principles of the TNPCB for inland surface water release can be met for tannery squander waters cost-viably through appropriate embed control gauges in tanning activity, and normally structured and viably worked wastewater treatment plants (ETPs and CETPs).


Compliant with this current Court’s Order dated April 9, 1996, we have heard educated advice showing up for the tanneries which have been shut as far as the above request. It has been brought to our notification that there are a few tanneries that had set up singular contamination control devices, in any case, regardless of that they were shut. It has additionally been brought to our notification that a portion of the tanneries are associated with CETP’s and have additionally set up their individual contamination control devices. Different abnormalities have been brought to our notification. In any case, we have presented to embrace a uniform strategy to welcome these tanneries on rails. We clarify that no tannery will be allowed to re-open except if this Court fulfills that the important contamination control devices either independently or in total have been set up by these tanneries and for that reason, we need to rely upon the exhortation offered by Technical Specialists like the Pollution Control Boards or NEERI. The Court coordinated the Central Contamination Control Board and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to mutually review the territory on war-balance. The tanneries either straightforwardly or through educated insight may approach the Pollution Control Boards or show that their individual units have set-up/built the important contamination Control devices. We direct the Pollution Control Boards concerned to quickly review the Units and document a report in this regard before May 6, 1996.

The Court additionally coordinated that each one of those Units which are not in a situation to develop the emanating treatment devices within this period may move to the Board when they complete the devices. The North Arcot District and Chennai MGR District Association and different Associations of the Tanners will bear the costs of the review groups sorted out by the Boards.

The Supreme Court analyzing the report conveyed its judgment putting forth all attempts to keep up a concordance among condition and improvement.

The Court conceded that these Tanneries in India are the major foreign exchange earner and furthermore gives work to a large number of individuals. In any case, at the equivalent time, it wrecks nature and represents a wellbeing danger to everybody.

The court conveying its judgment in favour of the petitioner guided all the Tanneries to submit a whole of Rs. 10,000 as fine in the Collector’s office.

The Court additionally coordinated the State of Tamil Nadu to grant Mr. M. C. Mehta with an entirety of Rs. 50,000 as gratefulness towards his endeavors for the security of the Environment.

·The Court right now underscored on the constitution of Green Benches in India managing matters identifying with environment protection and furthermore for quick and speedy removal of environmental cases.


As I would see it clearly the Environment Act contains helpful provisions for controlling contamination. I accept that the primary motivation behind the Act is to make power or authority under Section 3(3) of the Act with a satisfactory force to control contamination and secure the environment. It is a pity that to date no authority has been comprised of the Central Government. The work which is required to be finished by an expert as far as Section 3(3) read with different provisions of the Act is being accomplished by the Apex Court and the other Courts in the nation. The opportunity has already come and gone that the Central Government understands its obligation and statutory obligation to secure the debasing environment in the nation. If the conditions in the five regions of Tamil Nadu, where tanneries are working, are allowed to proceed with then sooner rather than later all streams/waterways will be contaminated, underground waters tainted, horticultural grounds turned desolate and the occupants of the territory presented to genuine infections. It is, subsequently, important for this Court to guide the Central Government to make a prompt move under the provisions of the Environment Act. The Constitutional and statutory provisions secure an individual’s entitlement to natural air, clean water furthermore, contamination-free environment, however, the origin of the privilege is the basic custom-based law right of a clean environment. There are in excess of 900 tanneries working in the five areas of Tamil Nadu. Some of them may, at this point, have introduced the fundamental contamination control measures, they have been contaminating the environment for longer than 10 years and now and again in any event, for a more drawn out period. This Court has in different requests demonstrated that these tanneries are obligated to pay contamination fine. The polluters must repay the influenced people and furthermore pay the expense of re-establishing the deteriorated nature.